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Blog
Friday, June 3, 2011

Insurance leaves cancer patients to fend for themselves

Colleen Haller

Staff Writer

When people talk about how expensive health care is, they are often talking about how expensive it is for people who don’t have insurance. The thinking goes that if a person has insurance, they don’t have to worry about high medical bills. After all, that’s why we have insurance in the first place.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, people with health insurance often still have to worry about spending a significant amount of their income on health care. This is especially true for people who buy insurance in the individual market. Unlike those who get their coverage through their job, people with individual health plans not only don’t have an employer’s contribution to help lower their premiums, but their insurance plans often offer less comprehensive coverage, as well. This problem is made even worse if a person has a chronic illness like cancer.

According to a recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one out of every seven cancer patients spends more than 20 percent of their income on health care and insurance. And this number goes up for people who have an individual health plan. Cancer treatments and medications are certainly expensive, but that’s why people pay their insurance premiums every month. They expect to be protected from high medical bills. Spending 20 percent of your income on health care is a considerable financial burden for working families with other bills and responsibilities to worry about.

Recognizing this hardship, congressional leaders made many improvements and changes to the health insurance system through the health reform law (or Affordable Care Act). In 2014, the law will create regulated marketplaces in each state, also called exchanges, where individuals can buy insurance plans. These plans will have to meet benchmarks on cost and benefits in order to participate in a state exchange.

In addition, middle-class families (with incomes up to almost $90,000 for a family of four) will qualify for tax credits to help them cover the cost of premiums. All health plans offered in the exchange will have caps on annual out-of-pocket costs, and people with low- and middle-incomes will receive extra help with cost-sharing. This way, everyone who gets their coverage though the exchange will be protected from out-of-control medical bills.

Whether you have cancer or the flu, cost should not be a barrier to seeking care. The new health care law may not be perfect, but it will provide some much-needed security for families struggling to afford expensive medical care.