By Lisa Zamosky
A new study highlights a frightening fact for women without health insurance: When it comes to the likelihood of being diagnosed with late-stage cervical cancer, a lack of health insurance is one of the leading factors. That was the finding of a new study conducted by the American Cancer society.
Researchers reviewed data from the National Cancer database on nearly 70,000 women diagnosed with late-stage cervical cancer between 2000 and 2007. Age was the leading predictor of a late-stage cancer diagnosis, with women 35 and older as much as 2.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer as women age 21 to 34.
But ranking as the second leading predictor of a late-stage cancer diagnosis was a lack of health insurance. The study found that of those diagnosed with advanced cancer:
- 24% had private health insurance
- 34% were covered by Medicaid
- 35% had no health insurance at all.
According to the study’s authors, “Late stage at diagnosis is likely attributable to under screening.” Not only does identifying disease in advanced stages lead to poorer long-term health, researchers say, but it results in higher treatment costs as well.
This is just another example of a phenomenon I’ve discussed before (see this earlier post) which ties one’s ability to access and pay for health care with the state of one’s health.
Help Finding Coverage
Until the health reform law takes full effect in 2014, at which time insurers will be required to accept all applicants, people with pre-existing health conditions may have a hard time finding insurance.
For other Americans, the high cost of insurance makes getting coverage impossible. In 2014 millions of people will be eligible for financial assistance when they buy a health plan on one of the newly established health insurance exchanges which must be up and running by late 2013.
In the meantime, if you currently have insurance, preventive services such as pap smears – the screening test used to identify cervical cancer – are available to most people at no charge.
If you’re uninsured, there are options worth exploring between now and 2014 as well. First, you should know about the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which offers screening and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the United States. You can find the program near you by going to the CDC’s website and clicking on the picture of your state.
Learn about the public and private insurance options available within your state at the Foundation for Health Coverage Education’s website, where you can take an easy 5-question quiz to determine your eligibility for a variety of coverage options. You can also check Healthcare.gov for insurance options and to compare plans side-by-side.
For assistance finding the right insurance plan that meets both your medical and financial needs, look for an experienced insurance agent on the National Association of Health Underwriters website.
Finally, if you have a pre-existing health condition and have been uninsured for at least six months, look into the government-run Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs) available in each state. Details can be found on the government’s website.
Share your story: Did you discover you had an illness while uninsured? How did you handle the situation? Where did you turn for help?