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Report: Health Insurance Does Not Fully Protect Against Financial Pain From Cancer

Dr. Carin van Zyl talks to patient Jose Garcia Flores about his treatment options for his advanced stage colon cancer in October 2015.
Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News
Dr. Carin van Zyl talks to patient Jose Garcia Flores about his treatment options for his advanced stage colon cancer in October 2015.

Report: Health Insurance Does Not Fully Protect Against Financial Pain From Cancer
A new report finds having cancer not only affects a person’s health, but also their bank account.

Having insurance is no guarantee against the financial pain of cancer.

A new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network highlights the problem.

It finds even people with health insurance face stiff out-of-pocket costs. These can include high deductibles, co-pays and payments for out-of-network care.

Nationwide in 2014, Americans had to cough up $4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatment.

The network's senior policy analyst and author of the report, Jennifer Singleterry, said cancer patients often face what is called “financial toxicity.”

“So if you’re having financial problems paying for your treatments and staying afloat, that does actually affect your outcomes and it’s harder to recover, or to survive your very grueling treatments," she explained.

Singleterry says cancer patients may need a treatment that their insurance plan does not cover.

“It’s definitely a really scary thing to be told, your insurance doesn’t cover this, and you have to pay the entire amount," she said. "And, you know, sometimes cancer patients are told they have to even provide all the payment up front.”

Singleterry points out that patients can sometimes negotiate a discount or a payment plan with a provider.

Her report recommends that consumers make sure their health insurance is affordable in terms of monthly premiums and in terms of deductibles and co-pays.