Washington State cancer patients found to be at greater risk for bankruptcy than people without a cancer diagnosis

Scott Ramsey, David Blough, Anne Kirchhoff, Karma Kreizenbeck, Catherine Fedorenko, Kyle Snell, Polly Newcomb, William Hollingworth, Karen Overstreet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

384 Citations (Scopus)


Much has been written about the relationship between high medical expenses and the likelihood of filing for bankruptcy, but the relationship between receiving a cancer diagnosis and filing for bankruptcy is less well understood. We estimated the incidence and relative risk of bankruptcy for people age twenty-one or older diagnosed with cancer compared to people the same age without cancer by conducting a retrospective cohort analysis that used a variety of medical, personal, legal, and bankruptcy sources covering the Western District of Washington State in US Bankruptcy Court for the period 1995-2009. We found that cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer. Younger cancer patients had 2-5 times higher rates of bankruptcy than cancer patients age sixty-five or older, which indicates that Medicare and Social Security may mitigate bankruptcy risk for the older group. The findings suggest that employers and governments may have a policy role to play in creating programs and incentives that could help people cover expenses in the first year following a cancer diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1143-52
Number of pages10
JournalHealth affairs (Project Hope)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Bankruptcy
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • SEER Program
  • Sick Leave
  • Social Class
  • Unemployment
  • Washington
  • Young Adult


Dive into the research topics of 'Washington State cancer patients found to be at greater risk for bankruptcy than people without a cancer diagnosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this