Samantha Watson Describes How Cancer Patients Balance Health With Finances

As founder and CEO of The Samfund, Samantha Watson has found that most cancer patients prioritize their physical health over their financial stability, leaving them lagging behind their peers economically or even facing bankruptcy.

Transcript (slightly modified)
How can the high cost of cancer treatments cause patients to prioritize their financial stability over their health, or vice versa?
This is an interesting question, because I asked a lot of our Samfund grant recipients this exact question, basically, if your care were covered in part but not in full and costs were still an issue, would you be more likely to do what you just asked, would you be more likely to prioritize your physical health or your financial health?

Almost across the board, I was really surprised to hear that most people would prioritize their physical health at the expense of their financial health. So, neither one is good. Neither one is good, to sacrifice one to the benefit of other. There’s still going to be struggles down the line. But what I heard from a lot of people is that there are certain medications, for example, that they would skip.

They might skip antiemetics, they might skip things that are not necessarily life-threatening, although sometimes people do take their medications half as prescribed, but often times what they will do is just hand over a credit card. Do what they have to do to be able to cover those costs of the medications or of the copays or whatever it might be, and then later on when treatment ends and everything starts to resume back to whatever normal looks like, the credit card bills come in.

That’s an impossible thing to recover from. We actually, at the Samfund, we published a paper earlier this year where we looked at the financial situation of our grant recipients, which arguably is reflective of some of the worst case scenarios for people, and we compared it to the US census data for comparison. One of the things that we found was that our grant recipients had an average net worth of $100,000 less than their peers.

What it signals to me is that people are sacrificing their financial health in favor of their physical health, and neither one is right. We can’t say that people should prioritize their financial health over their physical health, but I think there’s a way to accomplish both. Again, if the conversation’s going to happen earlier, if costs can be addressed, if resources can be found and support can be found, then hopefully people emerge from cancer treatment not facing bankruptcy, not about to lose their home, and really able to keep moving forward instead of backward. 
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