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Grantee: Mary C. Politi, PhD
Institution: Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
Focus of Research: Cancer Control and Prevention: Health Policy and Health Service
Grant Term: 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2020
The Challenge: Many cancer patients and survivors lack adequate health insurance coverage. People who are uninsured or under-insured have a greater chance of having cancer diagnosed at a later stage, when it is harder to treat. Cancer patients who lack adequate health insurance also have a higher chance of dying from cancer compared to patients with adequate insurance.
The Research: Mary C. Politi, PhD, interviewed cancer survivors to understand the challenges they face in selecting and using health insurance. Many survivors said that they weren’t clear about the cost of their cancer care and what their insurance would cover.
Politi used her findings to create a cancer-specific health insurance decision-support tool called Improving Cancer Patients' Insurances Choices (I Can PIC).
It shows cancer patients a personalized out-of-pocket cost estimate for different insurance plans, gives tips on how to use insurance, and lists resources for financial and emotional support.
A randomized clinical trial with cancer patients and survivors showed that patients using I Can PIC felt more confident in understanding health insurance terms than those using a generic tool. They also report a smaller financial burden.
Why Does It Matter? By helping cancer patients and survivors better understand and make an informed choice about health insurance, this tool could improve patients’ access to care. It may also help reduce financial distress and improve how well patients do after cancer treatment.