Difficulty understanding health insurance and medical bills may cause financial hardship for cancer survivors, a new study finds.
There is growing evidence that many American adults lack health insurance literacy, which is the knowledge, ability and confidence to obtain, evaluate and use health insurance information.
While improving health insurance literacy could help reduce medical-related financial hardship, little is known about how it would affect cancer survivors.
In this study, researchers analyzed data from 914 U.S. adults who were cancer survivors. They were asked: "Did you ever have a problem understanding health insurance or medical bills related to your cancer, its treatment, or the lasting effects of that treatment?"
Those who said yes were more likely than others to report worrying about medical bills, having difficulty paying them and delaying or forgoing care because of cost, according to the study published Oct. 17 in JNCI Cancer Spectrum.
The researchers also found that those with health insurance literacy problems were more likely than others to report nonmedical financial sacrifices, including changes in spending, living situation or use of savings.
Jingxuan Zhao, a health services researcher for the American Cancer Society (ACS), led the study. Her team said the findings suggest that improving health insurance literacy may be a way to reduce financial problems among cancer survivors.
"Interventions such as financial and health insurance navigation, decision aids, and more user-friendly and easier-to-read medical bills, which improve patients' understanding of health insurance and medical costs, could potentially be applied to improve health insurance literacy and benefit cancer survivors," the study authors said in an ACS news release.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on understanding your medical bills.