12 February 2021
It has been over 20 years since we began observing World Cancer Day, and ever since, it is observed annually on the 4th of February to increase global awareness of cancer. It is an important day for people battling this terrible disease, survivors, patients who have succumbed to it, and their families, to encourage its prevention, detection, and most importantly, treatment. The World Health Organization has labeled cancer as one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2018, an estimated 9.5 million people died of cancer all across the globe.
Moreover, the overall number of cases of cancer is set to grow to an astounding 27.5 million annually by 2040, with over 36 types of cancers present in over 185 countries.
However, there is one thing that has contributed to the stress that comes with this disease – cancer is expensive. In India, the burden of this crippling disease has doubled over the past 25 years and this number is only set to increase. This is due to several factors which include epidemiological and demographic transition, along with an overall increase in case detection.
The growing burden of cancer in India is concerning for oncologists, and even more so for public health experts due to the skyrocketing costs associated with cancer care. There are several evident and hidden expenditures when it comes to cancer treatment that makes it inconveniently expensive and widely inaccessible. Some of them are as follows:
These expenses include inpatient and outpatient services levied by patients and are involved in all stages, from detection to treatment. About 90% of the total cancer care costs are incurred for medical services such as consultancy fees, medicines, diagnostic tests, bed charges, and other expensive procedures such as blood transfusion and oxygen supply. The non-medical expenses, which are often not covered in medical insurance policies include food, transportation, employing a caregiver, and arranging transportation facilities for other family members. It’s often a medical loan that comes to the rescue.
This is one of the most concerning and worrying expenditures related to cancer care in India. Out of pocket expenditures or OOPs can be defined as direct payments made by people to healthcare providers at the time of levying a particular service. It is important to note that this does not include any prepayments for health payments, like insurance premiums and contributions, or taxes, and hence, is one of the most stressful and draining expenditures out there.
Apart from the high costs of the overall treatment and medications involved, several other factors make cancer expensive in India, such as:
According to Anil Chopra, the CEO of Bajaj Capital, only 15% of India’s vast population is covered under some health insurance. Moreover, those who have health covers are largely uninsured. To make this more understandable, the average policy amount for health plans in 2011 was about INR 1.9 lakhs.
However, the average bill for cancer treatment was about INR 10 lakhs. There’s clearly a massive discrepancy between insurance policy covers and the actual costs that are incurred by the patients if they are even insured. Unsurprisingly, folks have to turn to medical loans to finance these expenses.
While the government has rolled out impressive initiatives to combat the growing demand for affordable and quality medical care, especially for illnesses such as cancer, they remain highly inaccessible and insufficient.
For example, the cost OOP expenditure in states such as Telangana, Gujrat, Andra Pradesh, and Jharkhand, was five times less in a public health care facility when compared to a private one. However, the limited access, long waiting time, and insufficient resources make these initiatives less effective, especially for the poor.
Another important reason which is often overlooked but is responsible for the high cost of cancer treatments in India is the lack of customized solutions for the Indian population. About 70% of the technology and devices used for treatment are imported by hospitals, and often, medical device companies fail to take into consideration the demands of the Indian market. Moreover, out of the 20 major drugs used in cancer care, only 2-3 are manufactured in India, which again, contributes significantly to the overall cost and financial burden of the disease.
The data makes it evident that a majority of cancer treatment payments are met through out of pocket expenses, which are often not covered by insurance policies and cannot be reimbursed.
It’s why fintech pioneers such as EarlySalary provide instant loans with high approval rates and minimum conditions to help patients who are battling this terrible disease quickly and in a hassle-free manner. By providing these instant personal loans for grave medical emergencies, we hope to make treatments more timely and effective and contribute to the overall well-being of our valued users!
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