Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) in China is partially covered by national programs and health insurance schemes, though TB patients often face considerable medical expenditures. For some, especially those from poorer households, non-medical costs, such as transport, accommodation, and nutritional supplementation may be a substantial additional burden. In this article we aim to evaluate these non-medical costs induced by seeking TB care using data from a large scale cross-sectional survey.
Methods: A total of 797 TB cases from three cities were randomly selected using a stratified cluster sampling design. Inpatient medical costs, outpatient medical costs, and direct non-medical costs related to TB treatment were collected using in-person interviews by trained interviewers. Mean and median non-medical costs for different sub-groups were calculated and compared using Kruskal-Wallis and Mann–Whitney U tests. Regression analysis was conducted to assess the influence of different patient characteristics on total non-medical cost.
Results: The median non-medical cost was RMB 1429, with interquartile range RMB 424–2793. The median non-medical costs relating to inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and additional nutrition supplementation were RMB 540, 91, and 900, respectively. Of the 797 cases, 20 % reported catastrophic expenditure on non-medical costs. Statistically significant differences were detected between different cities, age groups, geographical locations, inpatient/outpatient care, education levels and family income groups.
Conclusions: Non-medical costs relating to TB treatment are a serious financial burden for many TB patients. Financial assistance that can limit this burden is urgently needed during the treatment period, especially for the poor.