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Friday, October 12, 2018

Breast Cancer Wariness: Half Pursued by Debt Collectors

Staggering news !




Nearly half of a sample of American patients with metastatic breast cancer reported being pursued by debt collectors, according to a financial survey reported last week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Quality Care Symposium (QCS) in Phoenix, Arizona.
The 1054-patient survey included individuals from 41 states; 49% reported contact from debt collectors related to cancer treatment bills.
"We found a very high level of debt collection," lead author Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, told Medscape Medical News.
This is a "staggering statistic on financial toxicity in cancer care," commented Nate Handley, MD, MBA, of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who attended the meeting and mentioned the study on Twitter.
The study participants were a mix of insured (n = 738) and uninsured (n = 316) patients.
Unsurprisingly, most of the uninsured patients (90%) were subject to debt collection. By contrast, only about one third of the insured patients were.
We found a very high level of debt collection. Dr Stephanie Wheeler
The survey did not explore the frequency of the collections contacts or the methods (eg, telephone calls, email, postal service). Wheeler explained: "Most of the time when debt collectors contact patients, they do it in multiple formats."
The survey also found that 54% of participants reported stopping or refusing treatment because of cost.
Unfortunately this is not confined to cancer patients. It is also common for many other chronic and potentially fatal outcomes.
Is there a possibility that medical debts should be excluded from collection methods.  Many physicians and/or hospitals will adjust off residual debt rather than pursuing debtors.
Alternative methods have been proposed for charitable organizations or groups to purchase debt for a markedly reduced amount, just as collection agencies purchase medical debt from providers and hospitals..
FICO's new formula
FICO, the source of the score used by most lenders, said Thursday that it is rolling out a new formula called FICO Score 9. The new score will drop collection agency accounts that are paid off, whether paid in full or settled, FICO spokesman Anthony Sprauve said. It will also differentiate medical debt from other types of unpaid debt.
Under the new formula, the typical credit score of 711 should rise 25 points for people with medical debts but no other serious demerits on their credit record, Sprauve said. Of all accounts in collections, only about 10 percent are paid off, he said.
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