Too many seniors battling cancer can’t afford life-saving medications

July 27, 2022

Roughly 1 in 3 Americans on Medicare who do not qualify for low-income subsidies also don’t fill prescriptions for their cancer drugs because they simply can’t afford them.

That was the finding of a recent study reported by the journal of Health Affairs and NBC News. Low income, according to the Social Security Administration, is defined as about $15,000 a year for an individual and $30,000 for a married couple.

Lynn Scarfuto, a 72-year-old New York resident, falls squarely into the category of too much income to qualify for the low-income subsidy but not enough income to afford her cancer treatment.

Diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, Scarfuto told NBC that she was diagnosed with lung cancer six years later. Imbruvica, a cancer medication prescribed by her doctor, costs her $12,000 out-of-pocket a year.

“I don’t have that kind of money,” the retired nurse navigator told NBC. “How the hell are you supposed to live?”

Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the study’s lead author, said the costs are simply too high for many cancer patients covered by Medicare. In some cases, patients would need to shell out nearly half their gross income to be able to afford their medications, she said.

Members of Congress have proposed numerous changes to curb rising Rx prices, but most have not made it into law. If you or a loved one are struggling to afford prescription drugs, Voices for Affordable Health has created an online tool to make it easy for you to contact your representative and senators in Washington, D.C. Click here to take action today!