Author Topic: Concerns about cancer centers under health law  (Read 267 times)

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Offline Once-Ler

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Concerns about cancer centers under health law
« on: March 19, 2014, 04:34:27 AM »

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of America's best cancer hospitals are off-limits to many of the people now signing up for coverage under the nation's new health care program.

Doctors and administrators say they're concerned. So are some state insurance regulators.

An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington's insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it's in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more.

In all, only four of 19 nationally recognized comprehensive cancer centers that responded to AP's survey said patients have access through all the insurance companies in their states' exchanges.

Not too long ago insurance companies would have been vying to offer access to renowned cancer centers, said Dan Mendelson, CEO of the market research firm Avalere Health. Now the focus is on costs.

"This is a marked deterioration of access to the premier cancer centers for people who are signing up for these plans," Mendelson said.

Those patients may not be able get the most advanced treatment, including clinical trials of new medications.

And there's another problem: it's not easy for consumers shopping online in the new insurance markets to tell if top-level institutions are included in a plan. That takes additional digging by the people applying.

"The challenges of this are going to become evident ... as cancer cases start to arrive," said Norman Hubbard, executive vice president of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Before President Barack Obama's health care law, a cancer diagnosis could make you uninsurable. Now, insurers can't turn away people with health problems or charge them more. Lifetime dollar limits on policies, once a financial trap-door for cancer patients, are also banned.

The new obstacles are more subtle.

To keep premiums low, insurers have designed narrow networks of hospitals and doctors. The government-subsidized private plans on the exchanges typically offer less choice than Medicare or employer plans.

By not including a top cancer center an insurer can cut costs. It may also shield itself from risk, delivering an implicit message to cancer survivors or people with a strong family history of the disease that they should look elsewhere.

For now, the issue seems to be limited to the new insurance exchanges. But it could become a concern for Americans with job-based coverage, too, if employers turn to narrow networks.

The AP surveyed 23 institutions around the country that are part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Two additional institutions that joined this week were not included in the survey.

Cancer network members are leading hospitals that combine the latest clinical research and knowledge with a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. They say that patients in their care have better-than-average survival rates. The unique role of cancer centers is recognized under Medicare. Several are exempt from its hospital payment system, instituted to control costs.

AP asked the centers how many insurance companies in their state's exchange included them as a network provider.

Of the 19 that responded, four reported access through all insurers: the Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. One caveat: Some insurers did not include these cancer centers on certain low-cost plans.

Two centers had special circumstances. The best known is St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Treatment there is free as long as children have a referral.

For the remaining 13, the gaps were evident.

In Buffalo, N.Y., Roswell Park Cancer Institute is included by five of seven insurers in its region. But statewide, the picture is much different: Roswell Park is not included by 11 of 16 insurers. Dr. Willie Underwood, associate professor of surgical oncology at the teaching hospital, says that's a problem.

"Overall, when you look at the Affordable Care Act, it improves access to cancer care," said Underwood. "When it comes down to the exchanges, there are some concerns that we have. That is not being critical, that is being intelligent. There are some things we should talk about ... before they start becoming a problem."

Melanie Lapidus, vice president for managed care at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, home to Siteman Cancer Center, said she doesn't think patients realize the exchanges offer a more restrictive kind of private insurance.

Lapidus cited Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which includes Siteman in many of its plans outside the Missouri exchange, but none within the exchange.

"We have had many people say to us, 'I picked Anthem because you guys are always in their products, and I assumed you would be in their exchange products'," Lapidus said. "It's still hard to tell who is in network and who is not."

In a statement, Anthem said its network was based on research involving thousands of consumers and businesses. "What we learned was that people are willing to make trade-offs in order to have access to affordable health care," the company said. "Our provider networks reflect this."

Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City is included by five of six Utah insurers, but Mark Zenger, who manages the center's negotiations with insurance companies, said he's concerned about getting left out by Humana, a major carrier.

"We are worried about the potential to have these Humana exchange members seek treatment and have no other option," said Zenger.

Humana spokesman Tom Noland said patients can have access to Huntsman for complex procedures, on a case-by-case basis.

Some state insurance regulators see a problem.

"I want insurers to be able to innovate and come up with new product designs," said Mike Kreidler, insurance commissioner for Washington state. "At the same time, there is a requirement for regulators like myself to be vigilant to make sure there aren't unreasonable compromises."

The Obama administration says it has notified insurers that their networks will get closer scrutiny for next year in the 36 states served by the federal exchange. Cancer care will be a priority, it says.
Frank J. Fleming ‏@IMAO_

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Offline Once-Ler

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Re: Concerns about cancer centers under health law
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2014, 04:39:23 AM »
Got Obamacare?  No cancer treatment for you.  Harry Reid says this is all just a myth so don't worry.  Everyone knows cancer patients lie.
Frank J. Fleming ‏@IMAO_

You voted to burn down the GOP. Mission Accomplished. Stop pretending you were voting to stop Hillary.

Offline Gazoo

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Re: Concerns about cancer centers under health law
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2014, 04:48:50 AM »
This could have something to do with it.

Americans who sign up for Obamacare will be getting a big surprise if they expect to access premium health care that may have been previously covered under their personal policies. Most of the top hospitals will accept insurance from just one or two companies operating under Obamacare, reports. The organization looked at the top 18 hospitals nationwide as ranked by U.S. News and World Report for 2013-2014, contacting each hospital to determine their contracts and talking to several insurance companies as well. Here's what they found (for more details, read Top Hospitals Opt Out of Obamacare).

Rank*   Hospital   Insurance Accepted**
1   Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore   All insurance companies, per state law
2   Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston   All insurance companies, per state law
3   Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.   Blue Cross (silver plan only)
4   Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio   Medical Mutual of Ohio
5   UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles   Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net
6   Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago   Land of Lincoln, Blue Cross
7   New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell   UnitedHealthCare, EmblemHealth, Aetna
8   UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco   Anthem Blue Cross
9   Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston   All insurance companies, per state law
10   University of Pittsburgh Medical Center   Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, UPMC Health Plan, Health America
11   Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia   Aetna Independence, Blue Cross
12   Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.   Coventry Health Care, Blue Cross
13   Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles   Health Net
14   NYU Langone Medical Center, New York   UnitedHealthCare, Affinity Health System, Fidelis Care
15   Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis   Coventry Health Care
16   Indiana University Health Academic Health Center, Indianapolis   MDWise
17   Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia   Independence Blue Cross, Aetna
18   University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland   Anthem Blue Cross, HealthSpan, SummaCare, SuperMed
*Source: U.S. News & World Report

**Source: Tori Richards,

Corrected on : Corrected 11/1/13: No. 16-ranked Indiana University Health Academic Health Center accepts insurance from MDWise, not Indiana University Health Plans, as stated in an earlier version of this article.

Top Hospitals Opt Out of Obamacare - US News

Which Top Hospitals Take Your Health Insurance Under Obamacare? - US News
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Offline mountaineer

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Re: Concerns about cancer centers under health law
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2014, 08:24:07 AM »
Got Obamacare?  No cancer treatment for you.  Harry Reid says this is all just a myth so don't worry.  Everyone knows cancer patients lie.
Well, hey, they've lived long enough anyway (by government standards). 
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Offline rangerrebew

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Re: Concerns about cancer centers under health law
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2014, 08:44:27 AM »

Here is the first Obamacare clinic in Chicago.
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