Assessment of Medical and Public Assistance Expenditures and Employment Among US Adults With Cancer Diagnoses


Importance  Prior research suggests significant social value associated with increased longevity due to preventing and treating cancer. Other social costs associated with cancer, such as unemployment, public medical spending, and public assistance, may also be sizable.

Objective  To examine whether a cancer history is associated with receipt of disability insurance, income, employment, and medical spending.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional study used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Study (MEPS) (2010-2016) for a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 50 to 79 years. Data were analyzed from December 2021 to March 2023.

Exposure  Cancer history.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The main outcomes were employment, public assistance receipt, disability, and medical expenditures. Variables for race, ethnicity, and age were used as controls. A series of multivariate regression models were used to assess the immediate and 2-year association of a cancer history with disability, income, employment, and medical spending.

Results  Of 39 439 unique MEPS respondents included in the study, 52% were female, and the mean (SD) age was 61.44 (8.32) years; 12% of respondents had a history of cancer. Individuals with a cancer history who were aged 50 to 64 years were 9.80 (95% CI, 7.35-12.25) percentage points more likely to have a work-limiting disability and were 9.08 (95% CI, 6.22-11.94) percentage points less likely to be employed compared with individuals in the same age group without a history of cancer. Nationally, cancer accounted for 505 768 fewer employed individuals in the population aged 50 to 64 years. A cancer history was also associated with an increase of $2722 (95% CI, $2131-$3313) in medical spending, $6460 (95% CI, $5254-$7667) in public medical spending, and $515 (95% CI, $337-$692) in other public assistance spending.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cross-sectional study, a history of cancer was associated with increased likelihood of disability, higher medical spending, and decreased likelihood of employment. These findings suggest there may be gains beyond increased longevity if cancer can be detected and treated earlier.

The full study can be viewed at JAMA Network Open.

Grabowski, D. C., Kansal, A. R., Goldman, D. P., & Lakdawalla, D. N. (2023). Assessment of Medical and Public Assistance Expenditures and Employment Among US Adults With Cancer Diagnoses. JAMA Network Open6(5), e2315823-e2315823.

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