The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak will have global repercussions, particularly from an economic standpoint. Retirees saw their savings and 401K accounts depleted. Businesses eliminated positions. The number of people filing for unemployment reached a record high.
Amid the health and economic crisis, people with mesothelioma have another concern on their minds: How will we pay for life-saving treatment?
In general, cancer treatment is expensive. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates the average annual cost at $150,000 per patient. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 all cancer patients spent $3.9 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
Mesothelioma patients comprise a small portion of that $3.9 billion figure, but treating the disease still costs a lot of money.
The coronavirus outbreak — and the depletion of financial resources — makes paying for treatment more challenging for mesothelioma patients. This leads to stress and depression, which results in a decreased quality of life.
Fortunately, there is help available for the victims of this disease.
The Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment
A study in the publication Rare Tumors analyzed the costs of mesothelioma treatment. In 2014, the average cost of mesothelioma hospitalization was around $24,000 and the total cost of hospital care was around $44,000.
Patients who underwent a procedure — such as surgery — likely spent more than those who didn’t have one. The average cost of all mesothelioma procedures was around $30,000.
The invasive, curative surgeries — pleurectomy with decortication and extrapleural pneumonectomy — cost on average between $53,000 and $63,000.
Chemotherapy also has enormous costs. The two FDA-approved drugs for mesothelioma are pemetrexed and cisplatin. The Rare Tumors study found that six cycles of pemetrexed and cisplatin together cost around $39,000.
Therefore, undergoing the combination of extrapleural pneumonectomy and six rounds of chemotherapy — which is a standard treatment plan for mesothelioma — costs patients around $100,000. This figure does not account for hospital stay costs, additional medications, other surgeries, and radiation treatment.
While insurance covers the majority of costs, spending thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses is unavoidable.
The American Cancer Society estimated patient costs for specific types of cancer. In Stage 4 lung cancer, which has similarities to mesothelioma, patients who had employer-sponsored insurance plans spent nearly $5,700 out of pocket. Patients with Medicare — a group that comprises a large portion of mesothelioma patients — spent around $8,400 out of pocket.
The Financial Struggle for Mesothelioma Patients
A study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology analyzed the impact of financial distress on cancer patients. The study specifically focused on lung cancer patients, but mesothelioma patients face similar challenges. The findings could apply to them as well.
“Financial distress has been previously shown to be associated with increased symptom burden and decreased treatment compliance,” the study authors wrote, noting that financial worries lead to a decrease in quality of life.
The study involved 97 patients, with a median age of 64 (similar to the median age of mesothelioma patients). Among them:
- 39% said they were either getting by or “struggling” financially
- 23% said they were forced to make “significant life sacrifices” because they were short on money for treatment
- 14% had to dip into savings or retirement
- 45% had a change in income following their diagnosis (often due to lost or reduced wages)
Most alarming was the patients’ estimation of their out-of-pocket expenses for the upcoming six months. It was as high as $50,000.
The Coronavirus Effect on Finances — and What Mesothelioma Patients Should Do
Numerous media outlets have summarized the effect the coronavirus outbreak is having on Americans’ retirement accounts and investments. The overall toll is unknown, but the stock market is suffering and most Americans have lost money on their long-term financial accounts.
A few of the reports indicate just how massive of an economic crisis already we already face:
- According to the website Kiplinger, the Dow Jones stock market has fallen 30% since February.
- The website Investors estimated in mid-March that Americans lost, on average, $22,000 in investments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- According to the website Bloomberg, the Vanguard Target Retirement 2020 Fund was down nearly 14% year-to-date on March 24.
- The Federal Reserve’s interest rate dropped, which means lower interest earnings on savings accounts.
This economic downfall will add to mesothelioma patients’ financial distress. Many of them may rely on their retirement accounts to pay for treatment. If those accounts have less money now, then they’re more likely to be exhausted due to the high costs of medical care.
Some mesothelioma victims who were working and paying for treatment through their wages. They may not have that resource anymore due to job loss and business closures.
For these reasons, taking legal action may be the most sensible option for many patients.
Mesothelioma claims have netted victims thousands of dollars — sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars — in financial assistance. Mesothelioma is caused solely due to asbestos exposure, and specific industries are responsible for exposing Americans to harmful asbestos dust for decades.
These companies should be held accountable, especially during such a vulnerable and challenging financial time for so many mesothelioma patients. Rather than dipping into already-unstable retirement, investment and savings accounts, get the financial help from those who are actually in the wrong for your diagnosis.
If you’d like to discuss your financial options and how to pay for treatment, contact our patient advocate team.
Carl Jewett (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired Navy lieutenant commander who specializes in helping military veterans. Karen Ritter (email@example.com) is a registered nurse who can help explain mesothelioma treatment options. Contact either of them via email to get in touch with a legal expert.
Sources & Author
- The High Cost of Cancer Treatment. American Association of Retired Persons. Retrieved from:
https://www.aarp.org/money/credit-loans-debt/info-2018/the-high-cost-of-cancer-treatment.html. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
- The Costs of Cancer. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from:
https://www.fightcancer.org/sites/default/files/Costs%20of%20Cancer%20-%20Final%20Web.pdf. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
- Costs of medical care for mesothelioma. Rare Tumors. Retrieved from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6637828/. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
- Financial Toxicity in Lung Cancer: An Assessment of Magnitude, Perception, and Impact on Quality of Life. International Journal of Radiation Oncology. Retrieved from:
https://www.redjournal.org/article/S0360-3016(19)31253-2/fulltext. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
- Coronavirus and Your Retirement Savings: Answering Important Questions. Kiplinger. Retrieved from:
https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C032-S014-coronavirus-and-your-retirement-savings.html. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
- Coronavirus Shock Is Destroying Americans’ Retirement Dreams. Bloomberg. Retrieved from:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-26/coronavirus-shock-is-destroying-americans-retirement-dreams. Accessed: 04/07/2020.
Sources & Author