Two years back, Mary came to know that she has a rare genetic issue. Due to this, she faced an increased risk of uterus cancer, 50 times higher than the average.
The doctor explained to Mary that Beta-catenin mutation was the cause. Yet, people had various treatment options and usually, women choose preventive Hysterectomy to avoid this. They live their remaining lives without a uterus. Yet, in this case, Mary chose to have numerous cancer screenings. Annual Pap test, biopsy, and MRI were her choices.
Since Mary wanted to have a child without surrogacy, she selected increased cancer screenings.
Both Mary and her husband Rob lived in Los Angeles. They had employer-sponsored insurance. Yet, these annual screenings are expensive. Now, Mary and Rob have to opt for high-deductible health plans so that the annual screenings are covered.
Mary’s annual deductible for her plan is around 4000$ per year. (As requested by Mary, only her first name has been used. She was concerned about publicity harming her employment prospects if the second name was used)
Mary says “I had been working in this organization was the past 17 years. Initially, there was no reduction in monthly salary towards health insurance. Co-pay was as low as $5. Yet, from the year 2011, my employer shifted to providing high-deductible insurance plans”.
The pap test together with biopsy costs around 700 USD. She had to shell out 2000 USD more for the MRI. Mary’s story throws light on genuine concerns of people who are underinsured. They are forced to delay cancer diagnosis and treatment. Now that her risk for breast/ovary/vaginal cancer has increased it would cost her more towards premium and diagnosis.
Studies reveal that women with low-income levels that took up high-deductible insurance plans, delayed screenings. They postponed their breast imaging by 1.6 months, biopsy by 2.7 months and 6.6 months for the first stage diagnosis. In most cases, delay in cancer screening can lead to multiple health complications.
Whether the woman lives in a metropolitan area or not, there is an undeniable delay in health care.
Besides reasons like income, education level there are other factors like awareness about the health issue, family circumstances, etc.
Delay is a concern not only in the treatment of cancer. It is prevalent even in the case of treating cardiovascular diseases and diabetes-related complications. Medical foundations and practitioners across the world no longer find this as a surprise.
There are nonprofit organizations like the Patient Access Network Foundation. They help these patients to undergo treatment without extra costs. At times the government focusses only on cutting drug prices. Yet, access to care and medication has to be improved a lot.
This year Mary never delayed her screenings. She set up a health savings account. She has arranged payment plans with her insurers and hospitals. She checked up with patient-assistance programs to reduce the cost. Yet, she did not meet the eligibility criteria.
As a result, she once again has started reconsidering Uterus removal surgery. Either way, the hospitalization bills add burden to her existing worries about her gene issue.