Baltimore, MD – Cancer expenses are getting increasingly pricier. Medicare, the federal government program for people 65 and older, pays part of the costs associated with hospitalization, surgery, nursing care, home health care, and general doctors’ bills. Because the majority of new cancer patients are adults older than 65, Medicare covers much of those expenses as well, but that doesn’t exactly mean the cancer care is any more affordable.

Medscape reports that cancer patients might have to pay out of pocket (OOP) for their cancer care, depending on the type of supplemental Medicare coverage. The mean annual OOP costs for beneficiaries without supplemental insurance and only traditional Medicare coverage was $8,115.

“Having a cap on OOP costs could be very helpful for seniors and has been part of multiple reform proposals, including policy organizations such as the Kaiser Family Foundation as well as institutions such as our own school of public health,” said Amol K. Narang, MD, instructor of radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Maryland.

Dr. Narang and other Maryland researchers published their findings in late November in JAMA Oncology.

“The oncology community needs to better understand those health services that drive out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients, which likely vary significantly by cancer type and likely by region as well,” Dr. Narang added. “There has been less focus on Medicare reform, although proposals that would increase cost sharing among beneficiaries may make them more vulnerable to high out-of-pocket costs.”

Fox News Health reports that coauthor Lauren Hersch Nicholas also took data from the national survey of U.S. residents over age 50 in the Health and Retirement Study to better understand the financial issues Medicare often puts on patients. Between 2002 and 2012, of the 18,000 beneficiaries involved in the Medicare study, 1,409 were diagnosed with cancer.

“Medicare reform that restructures the benefits for hospital-based services and incorporates an out-of-pocket maximum may help alleviate financial burden,” Nicholas added.