Cancer and medical debt: A twofold battle

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2022 | Bankruptcy |

A cancer diagnosis is a terrifying and life-changing moment. While many survive, more than 600,000 in the United States die from it every year. The disease is the leading cause of death nationwide. Those who receive the horrific news face an uncertain future. While they prepare themselves for battle, they face more than one opponent.

Cancer treatments that include surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation can wrack up significant medical expenses, even for those with insurance. Those fighting for their lives often find themselves battling bill collectors. Even if they find out that they are free of the disease, the backlog of debt affects not only them but also their entire families.

The most basic of amenities such as daycare or private schools for children may no longer be an affordable option. Those issues, not to mention bill collectors hounding them at all hours, can bring stress that may place obstacles on their respective roads to recovery.

A nationwide problem

The medical debt problem nationwide hits cancer patients the most, with more than 100 million people dealing with debts throughout the US. A survey from The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) revealed that two-thirds carry medical debt that forces them to forego basic household necessities. Twenty-five percent declared bankruptcy or lost their homes through evictions or foreclosures.

Dr. Veena Shankaran, an oncologist at the University of Washington, dug deeper into the problem. Shankaran uncovered startling stats, starting with 71 percent of cancer patients more likely than those without the disease to suffer setbacks in the form of collections, tax liens, and mortgage foreclosures. The doctor also revealed that cancer patients were 2 ½ times more likely to file for bankruptcy as well.

Sadly, massive debt loads for cancer patients are the rule, not the exception. Hundreds of thousands of dollars create an overwhelming burden that few can overcome without pursuing the route of bankruptcy.