Cancer Doctor Writes About The Harm Of Medical Debt

NPR has the story of Fumiko Chino, who was engaged to be married to a young Ph.D. candidate a decade ago.

Today, she’s a radiation oncologist at Duke University, studying the effects of financial strain on cancer patients. And she’s a widow.

How she got from there to here is a story about how health care and money are intertwined in ways that doctors and patients don’t like to talk about.  But Chino is determined to do so.

Chino is co-author of a research letter, just published in JAMA Oncology, that shows that some cancer patients, even with insurance, spend about a third of their household income on out-of-pocket health care costs outside of insurance premiums.

It’s an issue she knows well. When her husband died, Chino “was left with an ocean of debt. She estimates it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The JAMA Oncology study shows that cancer patients roughly spend about 11% of their income on out-of-pocket health care costs, not including insurance premiums. And as costs rise, patients are less likely to pay their bills and they’re usually left with a pile of debt.

Listen to the whole story for more: