Your Opinion: Cost of cancer care

Dear Editor:

As the cost of health insurance rises, it becomes more and more difficult for all of us to afford this critical coverage. This is especially true for cancer patients and survivors.

Some eye-opening numbers:

Nearly half of cancer patients and survivors under age 65 have had difficulty paying their health insurance premiums and prescription drug costs in the past two years. One-third of those currently in active cancer treatment have put off some type of health treatment in the past year, for financial reasons. One in three cancer patients or survivors under the age of 65 has been uninsured at some point since their diagnosis.

Tough economic times have magnified the barriers to quality, affordable health care that cancer patients and their loved ones have long faced, and they reinforce why the “sick care” system fails Americans with life-threatening chronic diseases such as cancer. Research has shown that lack of access to care can lead to later-stage diagnoses, and that people with private insurance have significantly better chances of surviving cancer than people who are uninsured.

Giving Americans access to quality, affordable health care is critical to defeating cancer. Being without insurance can create a hardship for anyone, but even more so for Missourians with cancer. A medical condition can be financially devastating for cancer patients and survivors without employer-sponsored health insurance. Finding coverage later in life often proves extremely difficult.

While cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones are acutely aware of the gaps in the broken health care system, they are far less familiar with many of the provisions in the new federal health care new law that will directly benefit them.

One of those benefits is a federally funded high-risk pool, known as the Missouri Health Insurance Pool, is meant to be a safety net for people who rejected by health insurance companies because of pre-existing conditions such as cancer. Missourians with medical conditions have the guaranteed right to buy health coverage through the high-risk pool.

MHIP has operated a state-based high-risk pool since 1991, so it is the authority in our state when it comes to providing health coverage for those with medical condition. MHIP offers coverage with broad physician networks, prescription drug plans and a variety of deductible options to meet differing family budgets. Premiums in MHIP’s federal pool are generally comparable to what’s available from private insurers, while premiums in the state pool are generally 30 percent higher.

For more information about MHIP coverage and eligibility requirements, visit www.mhip.org or call 800-821-2231.

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