Health coverage leaves significant holes in protection for a significant minority of consumers whose families have faced cancer.

Although most consumers with health coverage say their families’ finances have survived relatively intact, about 10% report running into serious problems, according to researchers at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., and Harvard University.

The researchers organized a survey for USA Today of 930 U.S. adults in households affected by cancer.

The researchers found that only 6% of the uninsured survey participants and 3% of the insured participants said their families had declared bankruptcy as a result of the financial cost of coping with their cancer or a family member’s cancer.

In the uninsured group, 46% of the families used up all or most of their savings, 30% had to borrow money from relatives, and 41% found that they were unable to pay for basic necessities such as food and housing.

Even in the group that was always uninsured, 22% of the participants reported using up all or most of their savings, 10% had to borrow money from relatives, 7% found themselves being unable to pay for basic necessities, and 7% ended up seeking the aid of charity or public assistance, the researchers report.

In total, about 13% of the consumers who have always been insured since cancer was diagnosed described the cost of cancer as a “major burden,” the researchers report.

About 27% of the uninsured participants and 5% of the always-insured participants said they or the family members with cancer had delayed getting care for the cancer or decided not to get care because of the cost.

“This is one of the most disturbing of the hundreds of surveys we have done,” Kaiser President Drew Altman says in a statement. “When people with cancer are deferring care and experiencing such serious financial hardships because of inadequate insurance or because they have no health insurance, it casts a new light on the need to address our nation’s health insurance problems.”

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GRAPHIC

Kicker: Choices

Cost-Based Cancer Treatment Decisions

Insured

Uninsured

Have you or a family member ever:

Delayed or decided not to get care for cancer because of the cost?

5%

27%

Chose one form of cancer treatment over another because of the cost?

3%

13%

Source: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health