What Does Financial Toxicity Mean?

Reviewed on 1/19/2021

Financial toxicity has real health consequences. People who are having trouble affording medical care are less likely to seek the level of care they need, allowing even common conditions to go untreated and worsen.
Financial toxicity has real health consequences. People who are having trouble affording medical care are less likely to seek the level of care they need, allowing even common conditions to go untreated and worsen.

Medically speaking, financial toxicity refers to difficulties a patient can have related to the out-of-pocket costs of medical care that may include: 

  • Hospital stays
  • Outpatient services (procedures and tests that are done without an overnight stay in the hospital)
  • Medical appointments
  • Prescription drugs
  • Lost income from missed work

Out-of-pocket costs can include: 

  • Copayments
    • Amount paid for each healthcare service, such as doctor appointments or prescriptions
  • Deductibles
    • Amount paid for medical care before health insurance pays
  • Coinsurance
    • The percentage of costs paid for services that health insurance covers after the deductible has been paid

Lack of health insurance or high costs for medical care not covered by health insurance can also cause financial problems and may lead to debt and bankruptcy. Financial toxicity can also affect a patient’s quality of life and access to medical care. 

Financial toxicity has real health consequences. People who are having trouble affording medical care are less likely to seek the level of care they need, allowing even common conditions to go untreated and worsen. Emotional stress, an almost universal symptom of financial hardship, has also been shown to compromise immune function and worsen other health measures.

Financial toxicity is also called economic burden, economic hardship, financial burden, financial distress, financial hardship, and financial stress.

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Reviewed on 1/19/2021
References
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/track-care-costs/financial-toxicity-pdq