Costs and Barriers to Care

ACS CAN supports the continued implementation of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that help cancer patients and their families and provides materials for consumers, cancer patients and cancer survivors who want to learn more about the law or their health insurance options.

Costs and Barriers to Care Resources:

Many patients with complex diseases like cancer find it difficult to afford their treatments – even when they have health insurance.  Current law establishes a limit on what most private insurance plans can require enrollees to pay in out-of-pocket costs.  These limits protect patients from extremely high costs and are essential to any health care system that works for cancer patients and survivors.

 

High deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) are becoming more common in employer-sponsored insurance and the individual and small group markets.  These types of plans have risks and features must be implemented carefully so they do not harm cancer patients, survivors or those at risk for cancer.

Short-term limited duration (STLD) insurance plans do not provide the kind of comprehensive insurance coverage cancer patients need.  These plans were designed only as temporary coverage and are not subject to the same Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements as other health insurance products on the market.  As a result, an enrollee who was attracted to the plan’s lower premiums may find – if they are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer – that the plan does not cover all of their necessary cancer treatments.  In these cases, the consumer can be left with catastrophic costs.

Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to spikes in their health care costs because many expensive diagnostic tests and treatments are scheduled within a short period of time, so cancer patients spend their deductible and out-of-pocket maximum quickly. These costs can be difficult to manage over the course of a year, and most monthly budgets simply can’t afford these large bills. 

Most patients experience spikes in their health care costs around the time of a cancer diagnosis as they pay their deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. For patients on high deductible plans, this spike can mean bills due for several thousands of dollars within one month.

The U.S. spent approximately $183 billion on cancer-related health care in 2015. This represents a signification portion of the total health care spending in the U.S. And it is expected to keep growing. By 2030 cancer-related health care spending is expected to reach nearly $246 billion.

ACS CAN supports legislative and regulatory policies at the state and federal level that prohibit patients from being surprise billed for unexpected out-of-network care.

This report explores the experiences of cancer patients with their health insurance and financial challenges through interviews with hospital-based financial navigators. The report finds that while the Affordable Care Act has brought crucial improvements to patient access to health insurance, cancer patients still face serious challenges affording their care and using their insurance benefits.