Sunday, April 17, 2016

Big Pharma, insurers, hospitals play blame game

'Financial navigators' helping patients cope with high cost of cancer drugs and treatment 

Laurie McGinley
As soon as you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you concentrate on survival.

Not on what that may cost.

But as soon as treatments and drugs start being prescribed, the money factor is likely to grab your attention.

Which in turn may lead to sticker shock.

Or depression.

A recent story by health-and-medicine writer Laurie McGinley in The Washington Post indicates that out-of-pocket $10,000 per month fees for a single drug isn't that unusual.

A monthly regimen of multiple drugs can run into the thousands of dollars in co-pays.
S. Yousuf Zafar

The Post article refers to patients suffering from "financial toxicity" — a term coined in 2013 by S. Yousuf Zafar at the Duke University School of Medicine — as well as the "mix of economic stress, anxiety and depression cancer patients often endure."

It focuses on "financial navigators [who] help people survive financially as well as medically [by taking] a highly individualized approach, working closely with patients and oncologists from the time of diagnosis and continuing through the twists and turns of a protracted illness."

As cancer costs continue to rise, and the health-care system grows more complex, the piece continues, the navigators'  strategy "is to pull every lever possible to extract maximum assistance from pharmaceutical companies, the government, foundations and…hospitals."

Meanwhile, Big Pharma blames insurance companies for making patients absorb higher deductibles and co-pays.

And in a turn-around, according to McGinley, "insurers say excessive hospital charges, doctor fees and drug prices are the culprits."

Hospitals join the blame game, too. They point fingers at "pharmaceutical companies [that] are inflating prices [and insurers that] are failing to adequately cover needed treatments."

The article also quotes a Seattle researcher to the effect that "people battling cancer are, on average, about 2-1/2 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer — and that post-bankruptcy patients are nearly 80 percent more likely to die from any cause compared with others with cancer."

"Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, wrote for male caregivers, addresses the costs of meds and treatments as well as the emotional toll on patients and their loved ones alike.

But be wary. The financial bell can be tolling for thee.

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