Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Medical costs for cancer treatment have skyrocketed to nearly double the total expenses of 1987, a new study released Monday reports.

Researchers at , in Atlanta and the say that costs hit $48.1 billion in 2005. (For an abstract of the study, )

In 1987, the costs were $24.7 billion, based on figures adjusted for inflation.

However, the main driver for the increased costs is the growing number of cancer cases, not treatment.

The estimated number of new cancer cases hit 1.48 million in the U.S. last year, according to the American Cancer Society.

"The number of cancer cases has increased proportionately more than medical expenditures, indicating that the increase in the cost of treating cancer has been driven mainly by the increase in the number of cases and not by the cost per treated cancer case," said Justin Trogdon, co-author of the study who is a health economist at RTI.

“The future of cancer detection and treatment is certain to involve changes that affect not only cancer-related medical expenditures but also which payers are responsible for those expenditures,” he added.

In the study abstract, the authors noted:

“There has not been a comprehensive analysis of how aggregate cancer costs have changed over time. …

“The authors identified 3 trends in the total costs of cancer:

1) the medical costs of cancer have nearly doubled;

2) cancer costs have shifted away from the inpatient setting; and

3) the share of these costs paid for by private insurance and Medicaid have increased.”

Private insures are paying the largest portion of costs, with their share of expenditures increasing to 50 percent from 42 percent.

Medicare’s share increased 1 percent to some one third, the authors said.

Medicaid costs increased to 3 percent from 1 percent.

Patients’ out-of-pocket payments declined 7 percent.

Researchers also noted that the share of outpatient care declined sharply to 27 percent in 2005 from 64.4 percent in 1987.

Data used for the study included 2001 through 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 1987 National Medical Care Expenditure Survey.

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