The leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is not from credit card bills, unexpected natural disaster or even job loss. The leading cause is actually medical expenses. In fact, studies show that 42% of Americans who face personal bankruptcy are because of paying for illness despite the majority of them, 78%, having health coverage.
For Americans, getting diagnosed with cancer is a huge financial burden and hits us in our wallets like a wrecking ball.
According to a new study, your average Joe or Jane who gets diagnosed with cancer will miss about five weeks of work in the first year. This can make their dear family, who already is probably overwhelmed and scrambling to keep their heads above water, with a 20 percent decline for their household income. In some cases, it might even hit them harder depending on the circumstances like the stage or severity of the cancer.
However, the huge impact of the financial problem we have in the United States is something that until recent reports was seemingly unnoticed to those who didn’t personally know the money-woes that come along with a breadwinner coming down with cancer. And, with this particular unfortunate diagnosis, it tends to occur seemingly out of no where.
“This is average effects across the entire population and many are retired or stay-at-home parents, so the effect is diluted,” said lead author of a recent study on cancer and finances,Anna Zajacova, of the University of Wyoming.
The research team gathered information from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics between 1999 and 2009. This data came from 8,000 families (17,000) adults. 1,000 of those individuals had a cancer diagnosis. They found that in total, an average loss of time working for individuals who were just diagnosed with cancer was about 200 hours (or five work weeks.) Men saw the financial blow that comes with getting sick even more than woman because they still are typically the primary providers in their households.
The yearly earnings of a person who was diagnosed with cancer also falls 40 percent during the first two years. But, it also showed that the family’s income usually recovers within four years. But, it’s different for everyone. Some people will only need to miss work for a few days if their cancer is in the early stage and can be treated quickly with a surgery. But, for those have to endure long and grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments, things aren’t so easy when it comes to missing work.
“In the U.S., the Family Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage,” said Janet S. de Moor of the National Cancer Institute.
The labor laws and culture in our country are leaving our suffering workers with very restricted regulations for when they need to go on sick leave. It’s not something that we should have such an issue with as a developed country. Yet, it still is. Sure, we have laws that protect employees from being canned for their cancer. Yet, there’s no income to help keep themselves and their families financially sound in the time where they need the money the most.