High-deductible health policies linked to delayed diagnosis and treatment

New research shows a connection between high-deductible health policies and delayed diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer care. According to the data, women with low incomes who had high-deductible insurance plans waited an average of 1.6 months longer for diagnostic breast imaging, 2.7 months for first biopsy, 6.6 months for first early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, and 8.7 months for first chemotherapy, compared with low-income women with low-deductible plans. The Health Affairs study also found that women with high incomes who relied on high-deductible health plans also faced delays, experiencing lags of 0.7 months for first breast imaging, 1.9 months for first biopsy, 5.4 months for first early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, and 5.7 months for first chemotherapy, compared with high-income women with low-deductible plans. The researchers found that having a high-deductible health plan was linked to delays in care irrespective of the size of the patient's town or city or if it was predominantly white or nonwhite. Factors that did play a role included the patient's familiarity with her disease and insurance benefits, prior experience interacting with an insurer, tolerance of risk, and familiarity and ease with the health care system and its jargon.

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