Financial Toxicity After Cancer in a Setting With Universal Health Coverage: A Call for Urgent Action

Bhoo-Pathy, N., Ng, C. W., Lim, G. C., Tamin, N. S. I., Sullivan, R., Bhoo-Pathy, N. T., Abdullah, M. M., Kimman, M., Subramaniam, S., Saad, M., Taib, N. A., Chang, K. M., Goh, P. P., Yip, C. H.

BACKGROUND: Financial toxicity negatively affects the well-being of cancer survivors. We examined the incidence, cost drivers, and factors associated with financial toxicity after cancer in an upper-middle-income country with universal health coverage. METHODS: Through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Costs in Oncology study, 1,294 newly diagnosed patients with cancer (Ministry of Health [MOH] hospitals [n = 577], a public university hospital [n = 642], private hospitals [n = 75]) were observed in Malaysia. Cost diaries and questionnaires were used to measure incidence of financial toxicity, encompassing financial catastrophe (FC; out-of-pocket costs ≥ 30% of annual household income), medical impoverishment (decrease in household income from above the national poverty line to below that line after subtraction of cancer-related costs), and economic hardship (inability to make necessary household payments). Predictors of financial toxicity were determined using multivariable analyses. RESULTS: One fifth of patients had private health insurance. Incidence of FC at 1 year was 51% (MOH hospitals, 33%; public university hospital, 65%; private hospitals, 72%). Thirty-three percent of households were impoverished at 1 year. Economic hardship was reported by 47% of families. Risk of FC attributed to conventional medical care alone was 18% (MOH hospitals, 5%; public university hospital, 24%; private hospitals, 67%). Inclusion of expenditures on nonmedical goods and services inflated the risk of financial toxicity in public hospitals. Low-income status, type of hospital, and lack of health insurance were strong predictors of FC. CONCLUSION: Patients with cancer may not be fully protected against financial hardships, even in settings with universal health coverage. Nonmedical costs also contribute as important drivers of financial toxicity in these settings.

Health Condition(s): Cancer
Year Published: 2019
UAB the University of Alabama at Birmingham home
UAB is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and family-friendly environment in which all faculty and staff can excel and achieve work/life balance irrespective of race, national origin, age, genetic or family medical history, gender, faith, gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation. UAB also encourages applications from individuals with disabilities and veterans.