Rising treatment costs increase burden on mesothelioma patients

Current estimates put the cost of treating malignant mesothelioma somewhere between $150,000 for non-invasive methods, like draining fluid build-up in the patient's lungs, that are palliative in nature (i.e., they just treat the symptoms), all the way up to $1 million or more for aggressive treatments like extensive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and gene therapy. A survey by prescription insurer Express Scripts estimates that costs for all cancer-related medications - not just those for mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer - will reach nearly $173 billion by the year 2020. Ironically enough, as better diagnostic tests are developed to catch mesothelioma earlier, costs might actually rise; a longer life span will result in higher overall treatment costs.

Treatment cost estimates do not include incidental expenses like travel to and from medical facilities, possible lodging costs if family or loved ones will be accompanying the patient, insurance premiums, or perhaps the biggest expense of all, the wages lost while the patient is too sick to work. Once these additional costs are tallied and added to direct medical expenditures, the financial impact is even greater. In some cases, the economic hurdles are too high for patients to overcome without assistance, and they are forced to make decisions between basic necessities like groceries and utilities or the medical care they desperately need.

Easing the financial burden

Help might be available to eligible patients through Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability or Veterans' Disability benefits, and those programs can make a huge difference in the level of care that mesothelioma patients receive. However, they may also lead to financial liens being placed against the proceeds of any civil suits filed. In addition, patients who can trace their mesothelioma to asbestos exposure in the workplace might be eligible to receive financial assistance from a personal injury suit against a former employer.

There could be help coming in the next few years as lower-cost alternative medications are developed to take the place of the two prominent, expensive drugs (Alimta and Cisplatin) currently used to treat malignant mesothelioma. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that takes effect in 2014 might also offer a financial break to patients and their families, but the full impact of that law won't be felt for years, possibly too late to help those currently dealing with asbestos-related diseases.

In the meantime, do you have questions about mesothelioma treatment costs for yourself or a loved one diagnosed with the disease? Want more information about seeking compensation from a former employer who exposed you to asbestos? If so, seek the advice of an experienced mesothelioma attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.