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:

ACS CAN comments to Secretary Alex Azar on Drug Rebate Proposed Rule

Many cancer patients have difficulty affording the cost of their prescription drugs, regardless of whether they are insured.  This is especially true for newer drugs that do not have a generic equivalent.  Many programs exist to help patients afford their medication.  This fact sheet focuses on two of these – patient assistance programs and discount coupons.  

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).

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are entities that administer prescription drug programs for many private, public, and employer health insurance plans. PBMs establish pharmacy networks, negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers on behalf of their clients, and provide basic claims administration.

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.

Prescription drugs are often less expensive in other countries. This is due to a variety of factors. There have been efforts at the state and federal level to allow individuals to purchase lower cost prescription drugs from other countries and import these products into the United States for personal use.

New breakthroughs in cancer research are making more life-saving drug therapies available. Keeping these therapies affordable for patients is imperative. Prohibitive cost sharing for prescription drugs can cause patients to skip dosages, split pills or stop taking their medications entirely, which reduces the effectiveness of their treatment.

Currently, Medicare part D is administered entirely by private plans that follow guidelines set by CMS. Policymakers propose allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter negotiations between pharmaceutical manufacturers and Part D plans in an attempt to lower prescription drug prices.

Most health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs use formularies to categorize the drugs the plan will cover and determine the amount of patient cost sharing. Divided into “tiers”, the higher the tier, the higher the share of cost for patients.

Private Health Insurance Resources:

These comments were submitted by ACS CAN to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding changes to the template Summary Plan Document that health insurance plans must provide to consumers.

In a letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), ACS CAN and other organziations provided specific comments to provide greater consumer protections and improvements to  the NAIC's Health Carrier Prescription Drug Benefit Model Act (Formulary Model Act). 

ACS CAN filed comments on the 2017 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters, including issues related to Medicare notices, standardized plan option designs, and network adequacy.

A recent American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) analysis of coverage of cancer drugs in the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act has found that coverage transparency has improved somewhat since 2014, but significant barriers remain for cancer patients.

ACS CAN Examination of Cancer Drug Coverage and Transparency in the Health Insurance Marketplaces

In 2015, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) analyzed coverage of cancer drugs in the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and found that transparency of coverage and cost-sharing requirements were insufficient to allow cancer patients to choose the best plan for their needs.

ACS CAN filed comments supporting the Internal Revenue Services' proposed clarification requiring plans to provide coverage for physician services and inpatient hospitalization in order to qualify as minimum value coverage. 

ACS CAN filed comments on the Medicare CY2016 Physician Fee Schedule, supporting CMS' proposals to establish a separate payment for collaborative care services and provide reimbursement for advanced care planning services.

ACS CAN provided comments on the proposed rule implementing changes to the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) and the Uniform Glossary in which we urged the Tri-Agencies to include a high-cost coverage example (specifically a breast cancer example) in the SBC, to require the inclusion of premium information on the first page of the SBC, and to eliminate the current coverage calculator and require plans to use actual plan data when providing coverage examples.

Medicare Resources:

ACS CAN provided comments on CMS' initiation of a national coverage analysis for cervical cancer screening with a combination of HPV and cytology (Pap) testing.

ACS CAN commented on the Medicare CY2015 Physician Fee Schedule, in which we urged, among other things for CMS to designate screeming colonoscopioes that resule in polyp removal or biopsy as a preventive service.  We also commented on the proposed provisions related to the Chronic Care Management code.

ACS CAN commented in the FY2015 Medicare Hospice payment rule.

ACS CAN commented in the FY2015 Medicare Hospice payment rule, in which we urged, among other things, for Medicare to develop a workable solution to better clarify when a prescription drug is covered under the Hospice or Part D benefit.

ACS CAN filed comments in response to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation's (CMMI's) request for information on specialty practitioner payment model opportunities.  ACS CAN's comments urged CMMI to pay particular attention to the impact various payment policies would have on a beneficiary's access to care.

In a letter to CMS Administrator Tavenner, ACS CAN joined other organizations urging CMS to reqire Medicare Advantage plans to provide coverage for clinical trials.

ACS CAN filed extensive comments in response to CMS' proposed rule implementing changes to the Medicare Part C and D programs, including opposing proposed changes to the Part D six protected classes.

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.

Approximately 160 provisions in the final health care legislation will directly impact the millions of Americans who have or will face cancer. The following is a list of the most important provisions for the cancer community:

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Costs and Barriers to Care Resources:

"Surprise billing” is when an insured patient is unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider and is then billed the difference between what the provider charged, and what the insurer paid. Surprise bills can be significantly higher than the consumer’s standard in-network cost-sharing. 

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.

 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps individuals with limited incomes afford their health care coverage by
providing cost-sharing subsidies (like deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments) for silver-level plans
purchased on the health insurance marketplaces. Currently, Congress and the administration are
debating whether to continue funding these cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSRs). If CSR subsidy
funding is discontinued, health care costs could increase for all marketplace enrollees – regardless of
whether the enrollee qualifies for the CSRs.

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.

As Congress debates enacting changes to the health care market, one concept re-emerging is state high-risk pools to provide health insurance coverage for individuals who otherwise cannot obtain or afford coverage. High risk pools are not a new concept. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) many states operated some form of high risk pool. During implementation of the ACA, a federal high risk pool was established as an interim step to the new marketplaces. The overall success of high risk pools varied. This fact sheet examines how state risk pools work and the impact on persons with cancer and cancer survivors.

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.

The Medicare program covers 55.3 million people, including 46.3 million who qualify due to age and 9 million people who qualify on the basis of a disability.  Medicare beneficiaries - including many cancer patients and survivors - have access to an outpatient prescription drug benefit that provides them with prescription drugs needed to treat their disease or condition.  This benefit – and keeping it affordable – are crucial to any health care system that works for cancer patients and survivors.