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USA: For uninsured people with cancer, access to care can be "very random"

Eighteen months after April Adcox learned she had skin cancer, she finally returned to Charleston's Medical University of South Carolina last May to seek treatment.

Adcox had first met with physicians at the academic medical center in late 2020, after a biopsy diagnosed basal cell carcinoma. The operation to remove the cancer would require several physicians, she was told, including a neurosurgeon, because of how close it was to her brain.

But Adcox was uninsured. She had lost her automotive plant job in the early days of the pandemic, and at the time of her diagnosis was equally panicked about the complex surgery and the prospect of a hefty bill. Instead of proceeding with treatment, she attempted to camouflage the expanding cancerous area for more than a year with hats and long bangs.

If Adcox had developed breast or cervical cancer, she likely would have qualified for insurance coverage under a federal law that extends Medicaid eligibility to lower-income patients diagnosed with those two malignancies. For female patients with other types of cancer, as well as pretty much all male patients, the options are scant, especially in South Carolina and the 11 other states that haven't yet implemented Medicaid expansion, according to cancer physicians and health policy experts who study access to care.

In the face of potentially daunting bills, uninsured adults sometimes delay care, which can result in worse survival outcomes, research shows. The odds of patients getting insurance to help cover the cost of treatment play out a bit like a game of roulette, depending upon where they live and what type of cancer they have.

"It is very random — that's, I think, the heartbreaking part about it," said Dr. Evan Graboyes, a head and neck surgeon and one of Adcox's physicians. "Whether you live or die from cancer shouldn't really be related to what state you live in."

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Source: CBS News, 7 April 2023



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