Historically, cancer care has been protected from many of the insurance issues that have beset other diseases. The life threatening nature of cancer was recognized by physicians, patients, and payers alike, and the barriers to obtaining payments from insurers were minimal. Over the past decade, however, this situation has changed. Policies dictated by insurers have begun to erode the protection that formerly characterized coverage of cancer treatment. This trend is manifested by reduced patient access to high quality cancer care and a lack of transparency regarding the recommended treatments.
As physicians, we are committed to providing the best care possible for our patients. However, we face serious challenges in meeting this goal, including the complex nature of cancer, involvement of multiple medical specialists, numerous treatment options, a confusing insurance system, and the inability of our patients to pay their sometimes outrageously high out-of-pocket expenses. Although it is not possible to instantly solve all of these problems, improvements in the areas of patient access and transparency are essential, and thus these are good places to begin.