What’s at Stake With High-deductible Health Plans When You Have Cancer?

health care_blogHigh-deductible health insurance plans are becoming more common these days. In exchange for lower premiums, patients who choose high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) typically pay for all doctors’ visits, lab work, and medical care until they meet their deductible. This excludes preventive measures like flu shots or mammograms, which are covered by most insurance plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

However, as HDHPs become more common, several experts are trying to learn what effect these steep deductibles have on patients seeking cancer treatment. In the spring 2016 issue, Cancer Today profiled several patients who have struggled to pay their deductibles as well as additional out-of-pocket costs for treatment. The article, written by Cancer Today contributor Charlotte Huff, also examines some data that suggests higher deductibles might cause people to skip needed care. For example, the nonprofit organization Families USA looked at non-employer health insurance coverage in 2014 and found that nearly 30 percent of adults with a deductible of at least $1,500 reported forgoing care versus 19 percent of those with a lower deductible.

It’s still unclear how high deductibles affect the decisions of cancer patients specifically. However, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are using data from a large health insurer to compare the timing of diagnosis and treatment decisions for about 175,000 women ages 25 to 64 on HDHPs versus those on traditional employer-provided coverage. The study, which started in 2013, will analyze the length of time it took women to get tests; have surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments, as well as the time it took from diagnosis to death. The NCI and NIH expect to be able to present results in late 2016, Cancer Today reported.

Learn more about cancer patients’ experiences with these health plans and read some tips to minimize health care expenses.

Cancer Today is a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers. It is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.