Documenting the Health Insurance Needs of Cancer Patients and Providing Scarce Resolutions

HIAS can offer lasting insight into the meaning of health care reform implementation.

The Health Insurance Assistance Service (HIAS) is a national program established to help cancer patients access or maintain health insurance coverage for which they are eligible. Lessons learned since its inception in 2005 are presented here.

The American Cancer Society addresses the needs of 800,000 cancer patients a year through its National Cancer Information Center. Noticing an upsurge of callers regarding financial and insurance-related questions, the HIAS was initiated. Over 39,400 cases have been handled since the program’s inception, and about 700 cases are handled per month. By offering guidance and direction on additional resources, the HIAS helps patients who are uninsured, underinsured, or those in transition after leaving a job.

Lessons learned from the initiation and management of this program include:

  • The existence of the team and resulting number of callers suggest that a need exists for information on health insurance options.
  • Too few affordable options exist for many of the callers even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Changes in the economy reflected an increase in callers.
  • The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan sees variation in implementation across the country, making affordable insurance still largely unattainable.
  • Data gathered and patient stories offer insight to the media and policy-makers through the “cancer lens” perspective.
  • Collaboration through partnerships of varying expertise helped a stronger program emerge.