Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.
“I’m never going to be able to afford that treatment.”
When those words come out of a patient’s mouth, it hurts. If it happened once, that would be one thing. But sadly, as an oncology nurse, I hear that statement far too often from people who never thought they’d face cancer or that they wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Can you imagine being told you have cancer but can’t afford to treat it? There is even a term for what patients face – financial toxicity – like other side effects from treatment.
I know that most often these folks have insurance. And when you have insurance, you assume you have coverage for when you get sick. But no one has enough insurance to cover all the costs of cancer and it’s time for that to change. Congress can make that change this year.
The problem starts with the way insurance companies classify different types of anti-cancer treatments. Most people think of receiving these treatments at a doctor’s office hooked up to an IV, and for many years that was true. In some cases, IV treatment is the best choice for a patient’s cancer. But science has also given us new options, that can be more effective for the patient, and in some cases are the only treatment available. These oral medications can be a game-changer for patients who need them. And use of oral anti-cancer medications is growing.
But insurers look at these two treatment options very differently. They often deny coverage or impose