July 31st, 2015 by Charlie Blackburn | NAACCReview Home Leave a comment

CaptureEvery year, thousands of people like Blanca Guerra call the National Cancer Information Center, desperate to find some kind of health insurance.

Guerra rang recently from her home in Arizona, seeking help for her older brother, who had just been diagnosed with advanced stage colorectal cancer.

A few years ago, the call center would have had few solutions.

But between 2012 and 2014, when the major coverage expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act began, the share of callers connected with coverage more than doubled from 12% to 27%, according to data provided to the Los Angeles Times.

The gains are not being evenly shared around the country, however, highlighting an issue still shadowing the federal healthcare law, even after it survived the latest legal challenge.

Guerra got help enrolling her brother in Arizona’s Medicaid program, which was expanded through the law. “It was such a blessing,” Guerra said in a recent interview, choking back tears.

Many callers from states such as Texas and Florida that haven’t expanded their Medicaid safety nets aren’t so lucky. Call center data show just 18% of callers from those two states got connected to coverage in 2014, compared with 35% in California and New York, which both expanded Medicaid.

“There are so many more people we wish we could help,” said Mandi Battaglia Seiler, who supervises the insurance service at the cancer call center.

The center, which sprawls through a building the size of 2 1/2 football fields in an industrial section of Austin, Texas, was set up by the American Cancer Society nearly 20 years ago.

More than 200 cancer information specialists now field about 80,000 calls a month, helping cancer patients make sense of their disease, find medical providers or sort through their treatment options.

Some callers are just looking for screening programs. Others are seeking clinical trials that may offer hope if their cancers aren’t responding to available drugs.

Many of the most needy patients are routed to the center’s insurance assistance service.

There, information specialists like Barbara Jones gently talk to callers about their cancers, their incomes and, crucially, what state they live in. …

Read Full Article (Excerpt of Article by Noam Levey from the LA Times, Submitted by Rebecca Cassady)

Francis P. Boscoe, Ph.D, Research Scientist, New York State Cancer Registry (NAACCR at-large Board Member)

With detailed data from nearly every U.S. state and Canadian province, NAACCR’s Cancer in North America (CINA) data are well-suited to measuring the impacts of growing state-level disparities in cancer outcomes emerging from differential implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as described in this week’s Los Angeles Times. While health coverage is up everywhere, the level of increase has varied widely. Among callers to the National Cancer Information Center, twice as many New York and California residents were able to locate coverage than those from Florida and Texas.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and may not represent the official positions of NAACCR.



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