Cancer patients and recent survivors say cost and covered benefits are top among their considerations when they are shopping for health coverage.

According to the most recent Survivor Views survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), cost is considered the most important factor when it comes to comparing coverage options (43%), but the right mix of covered benefits is also essential, with nearly one-third (31%) of respondents citing the benefits package as the reason for choosing their current plan. The survey was timed to coincide with the end of open enrollment for many Americans.

Seven in 10 cancer patients and survivors would prefer to have a plan with a low deductible; however, only 35% are enrolled in a plan with a deductible lower than the IRS-defined high deductible of at least $1,400 per individual or $2,800 per family. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those enrolled in high deductible plans say it was their only choice and more than a third (38%) of all cancer patients and survivors do not have a choice when it comes to their health care coverage.

“Those who have faced a cancer diagnosis have an acute understanding of the need for health insurance to be both affordable and adequate to cover comprehensive treatment and follow-up needs,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Any combination of high costs, limited provider networks or limited benefit packages can lead to delayed diagnoses and delayed treatments with potentially deadly consequences.”

One-third (33%) of those surveyed say what they look for in their coverage changed as a result of their diagnosis. Lower costs, covered services, and choice of providers dominate these shifting coverage priorities.

Reflecting on previous coverage, one in seven surveyed (14%) say that if they had a different health insurance plan at the time of their diagnosis, it would have made a difference in their treatment, and one in eight respondents felt they made the wrong choice or regretted their choice of health care coverage.

For example, one respondent wrote, “I would have been seen and diagnosed earlier at stage I or II, not pushed off and not seen until it was critical at stage III+.” Another respondent noted, “I wouldn’t be in debt for treatment. I had a very large deductible when I was diagnosed.”

“While the health care law has made great strides in expanding access to health insurance that is affordable and adequate to prevent, detect, treat and survive a cancer diagnosis, we have continued opportunity to strengthen the patient protections to ensure patients can access the care they need at a cost they can afford,” Lacasse said. “Congress took a critical step by capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in Medicare Part D. The 118th Congress has another opportunity to address patient affordability by making permanent the enhanced tax subsidies for those purchasing health insurance in the marketplace.”

Sixty percent of respondents agree the enhanced marketplace subsidies should be made permanent. Four in ten (41%) of those surveyed say they know someone who will personally benefit from the Medicare Part D out-of-pocket cap on prescription drug spending. Eight in ten (81%) believe there should be a cap on all out-of-pocket spending in Medicare.

In addition to affordability, respondents were asked what would make them feel more confident in their ability to choose a plan that is right for their cancer care and survivorship needs. Nearly half (48%) said they want easier to understand information, followed by a better ability to compare plans (41%) and access to a navigator (40%). Twenty-nine percent mentioned wanting a greater variety of choices.

The data were collected between January 2–22, 2023. A total of 1,279 cohort participants responded to the survey. Differences reported between groups are tested for statistical significance at a 95% confidence interval.

Read the full polling memo.

This press release was originally published February 28, 2023, by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. It is republished with permission.