Americans Willing to Pay Hundreds of Dollars Out of Pocket for Cancer Risk Tests

Rosemary Frei, MSc

February 2012, Vol 3, No 1 - Health Policy


American adults would be willing to pay a median of $263 for a perfect prostate cancer prediction test and $232 for a perfect breast cancer prediction test, according to a recent survey (Neumann PJ, et al. Health Econ. 2012;21:238-251). This is even when—according to this hypothetical scenario presented to participants in the survey—respondents were told that if the test results were positive the disease could not be prevented, but the person could access treatments when the disease occurred.

“The results show that people value having information about their disease risk, whether or not they have any symptoms or can do anything about it. People may feel empowered by the information,” noted lead investigator Peter J. Neumann, ScD, Director, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston.

Dr Neumann and his colleagues presented the 1463 survey respondents 1 of 16 hypothetical scenarios in which their physician told them in the course of a regular checkup that they were healthy, but they had a probability—either 10% or 25%—of one day contracting either prostate cancer, breast cancer, Alz­heimer’s disease, or arthritis.

The physician offered a new blood test that would tell them—with either perfect or imperfect accuracy—whether they would develop the disease. They were also told they would have to pay for it themselves, because insurance did not cover it.

Prostate cancer was the condition male respondents were most inclined to be tested and pay for, with 85.4% to 88.0% of respondents saying they would take the test, depending on the risk level and the level of test accuracy.

The median amount respondents would be willing to pay for a prostate cancer test was $263, with a perfect test and a disease risk of 25%.

Breast cancer testing was not far behind, with 79.0% to 82.4% of respond­ent women being inclined to take the test and being willing to pay
a median of $232 for a perfect test and if they had a 25% disease risk.