Financial hardship is a major source of stress that can put a dent in the wellbeing of even the healthiest among us. If that financial stress is the result of a mesothelioma diagnosis, the effects can be even more serious. At a time when all your attention should be on taking care of your health, the strain of a huge pile of medical bills can lead to less favorable outcomes from mesothelioma treatment.
Many people who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis were not rolling in cash even before they became sick. Asbestos exposure is most common among those who worked hard all their lives as builders, welders, and engineers to create a comfortable life for their families. A mesothelioma diagnosis can mean not only a mounting stack of medical bills but also lost wages for both the patient and family caregivers, which can throw the whole family into financial distress.
People who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis have one financial resource that not all cancer patients do. Because mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, patients are often able to get compensation for their illness from the corporations that negligently exposed them to asbestos. But more on that later. First, let’s take a look at the toll that financial stress takes on people with a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Finances Linked to Outcomes After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
In 2009, the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW) surveyed patients, caregivers, and social workers about the effects of financial stress on recovery from cancer. The results showed that patients who struggled under the financial burden of their medical bills were less able to direct their attention to cancer treatment.
In addition, the study found that 66% of the cancer patients who were burdened by medical bills became depressed. While depression is not uncommon after a mesothelioma diagnosis (or any cancer diagnosis), the additional stress created by financial hardship increases the chances of depression. This is significant because some studies have shown that depression can affect parts of our immune system that may help our bodies fight off cancer.
Of even more concern, the AOSW study found that 29% of cancer patients who suffered from financial stress put off getting prescriptions filled and 22% skipped taking needed medications to stretch out a prescription for longer.
The patients affirmed the study’s conclusion that financial strain gets in the way of cancer treatment. More than half of those surveyed reported that the effort to stay on top of their medical bills made them less able to attend to their cancer treatment and recovery. The last thing you need after a mesothelioma diagnosis is anything that distracts you from focusing completely on getting the best treatment to fight back against this debilitating cancer.
Money, Depression, and a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
A 2012 study of patients in Ireland (where, it should be noted, there is a public health program that insulates patients from enormous medical bills) showed increased levels of stress about money in almost half of cancer patients. The study, published in Psycho-Oncology in April 2013, surveyed people with lung cancer, as well as breast and prostate cancers, more than six months after their first diagnosis with cancer. Researchers found that those who reported financial hardship due to their cancers were three times more likely to suffer from depression.
This study concluded that Ireland should do more to relieve the financial strain on families affected by cancer. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act has relieved one common source of stress for cancer patients: insurance companies can no longer place a lifetime or annual cap on coverage. If you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, you don’t have to worry that your insurance will simply run out and stop paying the bills. You can still accumulate large bills, however, for treatments not covered by your insurance plan and for copayments.
Types of Financial Stress After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
A study funded by the UK Medical Research Council that surveyed research on financial stress associated with terminal cancer noted that this is an area that needs more scientific study. Among the conclusions in their manuscript titled Financial stress and strain associated with terminal cancer – A systematic review of the evidence, the researchers noted that addressing the effects of financial stress should be considered part of palliative care for patients with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Patients indicated that they would appreciate a discussion about finances with their healthcare professionals, though the researchers also admitted that this type of conversation is outside the expertise of most medical workers. They highlighted the fact that, now that the medical profession has become more upfront about discussing a terminal mesothelioma diagnosis, “it may be that money remains a final taboo.”
The review included summaries of a number of studies from the United States. Some key findings from those studies include:
- Up to 28% of patients with terminal cancer spent more than 10% of their income on their treatment.
- As many as 16% had to spend their savings, sell their possessions, take out an extra mortgage, or get an extra job to cover medical costs.
- As many as 38% more reported spending all or most of their savings to pay for cancer care.
- A family member quit a job to care for the person with cancer at least 20% of the time (and more than 40% of the time, in one study), creating even greater financial hardship.
- About a quarter of patients with terminal cancer lost a major income source due to their illness.
- Up to 20% of patients weren’t able to get all their needs met (from medical expenses to other costs due to the illness to day to day expenses) during their last month of life.
- One third of patients said that their overall financial stability was affected by the costs of their medical care.
Relieving Financial Stress After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
These studies show the importance of taking worries about money out of the picture after you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis. Negative effects from financial stress can lead to shorter life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma. You want to maximize the time you have left to spend with your loved ones and to make sure you spend your days in the best health possible.
That’s where mesothelioma lawyers can help. Your medical care is in good hands with your doctors; your financial health can be greatly improved with help from an experienced asbestos attorney. The compensation you may receive for your illness can free your mind to concentrate on fighting back against mesothelioma. It can also support your family after you are gone. Call today for a free consultation.