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Access to Health Care

ACS CAN advocates for policies that provide access to treatments and services people with cancer need for their care - including those who may be newly diagnosed, in active treatment and cancer survivors.

Prescription Drug Affordability Resources:

Patient Assistance Programs

Prescription drug costs are a significant burden on cancer patients and survivors, sometimes even leading patients to miss or delay taking prescribed medications. The latest Survivor Views survey explores the role copay assistance programs can play in reducing this burden, and also addresses patient navigation and digital therapeutics.

A majority of cancer patients and survivors struggle to afford cancer care and over 80% have had to make financial sacrifices to cover their health care expenses. This survey also reveals ways that affordability concerns can negatively impact care and treatment, and explores issues related to prescription drug coverage and pain management options.

Many cancer patients take multiple drugs as part of their treatment – often for many months or years. While drugs are not the only costly part of cancer treatment, finding ways to reduce these costs for patients and payers will significantly reduce the overall cost burden of cancer.

This Survivor Views survey examined access to and affordability of cancer care. Survivors report insurance-related barriers to obtaining prescriptions, and lower-income respondents in particular have difficulty affording them.  24% of respondents have received a surprise medical bill, 60% of which were more than $500.

Biological drugs, commonly referred to as biologics, are a class of drugs that are produced using a living system, such as a microorganism, plant cell, or animal cell. Like all drugs, biologics are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For an individual with specific health care needs – like cancer patients and survivors – the drugs covered by a health plan and corresponding cost sharing for each drug is important information when choosing health insurance. However, to make an informed choice, formulary information must be disclosed to the individual.

Medicare Resources:

Cancer patients and survivors must balance reducing their health care costs with ensuring they have comprehensive coverage of services, treatments, and care providers.

On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network filed comments on the calendar year (CY) 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule. 

ACS CAN's comments focused on the following:

The incidence of cancer increases with age and thus the Medicare program is vitally important to millions of Americans who are undergoing active cancer treatment, are cancer survivors or who have not yet developed cancer.

ACS CAN Comments to Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

ACS CAN submitted comments on the Medicare Part C and D Rule.

Approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2018. Age is one of the most important risk factors for cancer, with one half of cancer cases occurring in people over the age of 65.

ACS CAN filed extensive comments expressing deep concern with the proposed Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model and noting that in its proposed form the Part B Drug Model Model failed to protect cancer patients' access to life-saving medications.

This analysis examines two issues of particular interest to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and its members: the extent of coverage and cost-sharing for cancer drugs, and whether information on the coverage of cancer drugs can be readily obtained, compared, and understood by patients.

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Costs and Barriers to Care Resources:

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.

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.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped individuals with pre-existing conditions like cancer access comprehensive health insurance and afford their care. But the law is at risk of being dismantled.

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.

Current federal requirements prohibit health insurance plans from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions like cancer.  These are one of several important patient protections that must be part of any health care system that works for cancer patients.

Current federal law has several provisions that help prevent individuals and families from experiencing gaps in their health insurance coverage.  Coverage gaps can delay necessary care, which is particularly detrimental to cancer patients and survivors.  Preventing gaps in coverage is a crucial patient protection that must be maintained in our health care and insurance system.

Current federal law provides life-saving coverage of cancer prevention and early detection services and programs.  These provisions are crucial to reducing the incidence and impact of cancer in the United States.  They are also crucial in helping cancer survivors remain cancer-free and lead healthy lives.

Medicaid Resources:

ACS CAN submitted comments opposing Tennessee's proposal to fund its Medicaid program through a block grant and implement a closed formulary.

ACS CAN comments supporting Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, but opposing their proposal to rescind retroactive eligibility

An increasing number of states are seeking greater flexibility in administering their Medicaid programs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) give states the opportunity to test innovative or alternative approaches to providing health care coverage to their Medicaid populations through Section 1115 Research and Demonstration Waivers (otherwise known as "1115 waivers"). States must demonstrate that their waivers promote the objectives of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) and CMS must use general criteria to determine whether the objectives of the Medicaid/CHIP programs are met.

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