Older, Rural Cancer Survivors Face Financial Woes
A new report shows that older cancer survivors in rural areas were much more likely to forgo medical and dental care because of financial concerns compared with older cancer survivors living in urban areas.
The study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, shows that cancer survivors in rural areas age 65 or older were 66% more likely to forgo medical care and 54% more likely to forgo dental care because of cost, compared with their urban counterparts.
Study author Nynikka Palmer with the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, says the research found a wide disparity among older survivors "for whom health insurance coverage through Medicare is almost universal, while no disparity was found for younger survivors after controlling for various factors. This suggests that health insurance coverage alone may not ensure equal access to health care."
Palmer says older cancer survivors in rural areas may have to travel farther to reach a medical provider, causing them to incur greater out-of-pocket costs associated with travel and lost wages. They may also face challenges with social support and transportation issues if younger family members leave rural areas for better economic opportunities in cities.
"While insurance coverage may not have fully explained rural-urban disparities in older survivors, we did observe strong associations between health insurance and forgoing care," Palmer said. "With the expected changes in health care policies in the forthcoming year, it will be important to assess the impact on rural and urban cancer survivors."