Insured Cancer Patients Face Systemic Inequities in Accessing Care

By Lou Portero - March 10, 2023

Patients with high-quality health insurance may still face hindrances in obtaining cancer care due to bureaucratic delays and obstacles, according to a report by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Manatt Health. 

The report titled “Vital Access: How Policymakers Can Streamline the Cancer Care Journey” interviewed over two dozen cancer patients and their family members who reported facing challenges in accessing cancer care. 

The report revealed that patients frequently encountered hurdles like limited networks, insufficient reimbursements, and burdensome preapproval procedures that hindered them from accessing optimal care and advancements in treatment. 

“In many cases, the healthcare system we have today has allowed roadblocks to patients’ health to persist, rather than opening doors to the treatment they need. There’s a better way,” said Lucy Culp, executive director of state government affairs at LLS and co-author of the report.

The report also highlighted how the policy frameworks governing insurance contribute to systemic inequalities that impede access to superior blood cancer care.

“Some groups—including, but not limited to, racial and ethnic minority groups, individuals with low income, and rural residents—face substantial social, economic, and environmental disadvantages that hinder or prevent access to the treatment and care they need,” the report states. 

Among the groups affected the most by disparities in access are Medicaid beneficiaries, of whom thirty-three percent are Black, and thirty percent are Latinx.

To address such disparities, the report’s authors outline nine policy reform recommendations in five areas: 

  • Addressing Burdens Posed by Inadequate Network Standards
  • Reducing Administrative Hurdles of Seeking Out-of-State Care
  • Eliminating Administrative Red Tape Barring Access to Treatment
  • Increasing Transparency of Plan Network Composition and Performance
  • Elevating Patient-facing Support for Plan Selection and Navigation of Coverage and Treatment

“The good news is there are tools available to plans, providers, and regulators to address many of these continued gaps for individuals that have insurance but are unable to access care,” said Manatt Health director Alex Morin, who co-authored the report. “But it’s clear that we are not taking advantage of them to their fullest potential, and as a result, patients and families continue to suffer.”

Source: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

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