Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.

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Open Enrollment: Time for Cancer Patients and Survivors to Get Covered and Stay Covered

November 19, 2014

Fall is the season when millions of people nationwide enroll or re-enroll in health coverage through their jobs. For the next three months, people without health coverage through work or Medicare can purchase a health insurance plan by visiting HealthCare.gov.

Thanks to key provisions of the health care law known as the Affordable Care Act, every state now has a website that makes it easier than ever to shop for coverage and compare health plans. This is particularly important for uninsured people with cancer and their families, who were often denied coverage outright or charged far more than they could afford for a plan before the health care law went into effect.

Close to seven millionξpreviously uninsured people Š—– many of whom have a history of cancer Š—– found coverage on their stateŠ—'s marketplace during the first open enrollment period last winter. If you bought a marketplace plan last year, you should visit the website again to make sure your plan best meets your needs. Actively renewing your coverage will guarantee you not only the best health coverage for you, but ensure you have access to the most accurate financial assistance available.

Many people with cancer or at risk for cancer still worry that health coverage will cost more than they can afford. They should be aware that financial assistance is available to many low- and middle-income families to make health insurance more affordable.

Having health coverage can mean the difference between life and death from cancer. Scientific studies conducted by the American Cancer Society have shown that people with health insurance are less likely than the uninsured to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer and are more likely to survive the disease. ThatŠ—'s why the Society and ACS CAN are educating cancer patients and their families across the country about the importance of getting health insurance.

Provisions of the health care law make sure that:

  • All health plans sold in health insurance marketplaces cover essential benefits that include cancer screening, treatment, and follow-up care
  • Proven cancer screenings and other preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies be made available at no or very low cost and health plans cannot charge people more because of a history of cancer or take away coverage because of a new diagnosis
  • Health care professionals are trained to treat pain and other symptoms to help improve patientsŠ—' quality of life
  • The Š—“donut holeŠ— in Medicare Part D that forced seniors to pay high costs for prescription drugs after they reached a certain limit is shrinking from year to year until itŠ—'s finally closed in 2020
  • Coverage is made available for patients who participate in clinical trials

As we all know, neither the health care law nor its implementation is perfect. For one, large numbers of people nationwide remain uninsured, especially in states that have chosen not to increase access to Medicaid coverage, as the law allows. ACS CAN staff and volunteers are working to encourage those states to take the tremendous opportunity to reduce the health and economic burden of chronic diseases such as cancer by improving access to health care through Medicaid.

Numerous resources are available to help you compare health insurance plans and choose the best one for you and your family. You can visit the official marketplace website, HealthCare.gov (for Spanish, CuidadoDeSalud.gov), or call 800-318-2596. There is also in-person assistance available in your community to help you with the enrollment process Š—– learn more at localhelp.healthcare.gov Š—– and many individuals can receive financial help with purchasing insurance.

ACS CAN has also produced educational materials for cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. And the SocietyŠ—'s call center, open 24/7 at 800-227-2345, has a dedicated team of health insurance specialists who are ready to answer your questions.

If you are living with cancer or have survived the disease, it is especially important to choose a health insurance plan that best meets your needs. This open enrollment season, take the time to review your options and choose coverage that ensures you have access to health services when you need them throughout the year. It may save your life.