NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Even with health insurance, more than one million cancer survivors living in the United States report that they forgo needed medical care because of concerns about cost, according to research presented Wednesday at the American Association for Cancer Research conference on the Science of Health Care Disparities.
“These survivors are either going without, or significantly delaying, dental care, general medical care, mental health care or prescription drugs,” Dr. Kathryn Weaver, a cancer prevention researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, noted in a statement from the conference.
Hispanic and African-American cancer survivors are twice as likely to go without medical care services as non-Hispanic whites.
Although insurance status does play a role, going without care due to cost was noted among those with health insurance. “There are significant out-of-pocket expenses, even for those with insurance,” Weaver pointed out.
She and her colleagues identified 6602 adult cancer survivors, of whom 64.3 percent were female, 4.8 percent were Hispanic, 6.4 percent were non-Hispanic black and 88.8 percent were non-Hispanic white.
Overall, they found that the prevalence of forgoing medical care due to cost was 7.8 percent for general medical care, 9.9 percent for prescription medication, 11.3 percent for dental care, and 2.7 percent for mental health care.
Compared with non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics were 2.14-fold more likely to forgo prescription medications due to cost concerns and African Americans were 87 percent more likely to skip their prescription drugs. For dental care, Hispanics were 2.31-fold more likely to go without and African Americans were 57 percent more likely.
“Future research needs to examine the impact of forgoing care on survivors’ long-term physical and mental well-being and survival,” Weaver and colleagues conclude. They also think doctors need to be more aware that their patients are not getting these services and work to try to connect them to charity or low-cost care.