High-deductible health plans may delay detection of cancer, study finds

A new observational study has linked high-deductible health plans with delays in the detection of metastatic cancer, according to Healio.

Researchers presented the results of their study at the ASCO Annual Meeting that took place in Chicago from June 3-7.

"Specifically, we observed a delay in cancer diagnosis of 4.6 months," Harvard Medical School student Nicolas Karim Trad said at the conference.

The study compared 345,401 people with HDHPs to 1,654,775 people with low-deductible plans. Both groups had a one-year baseline period where all were enrolled in a low-deductible plan.

There was no observed difference in time to metastatic diagnosis at the baseline, but people with HDHPs saw a longer time to their first metastatic cancer diagnosis, indicating delayed cancer detection compared to the control group.

The researchers recommended offering plans that reduce cost-sharing for patients to incentivize preventive screenings.

"Potential impacts of delayed cancer diagnosis include delayed initiation of palliative care and symptom-relieving therapies, as well as greater dissemination of disease, which further limits therapeutic options," Mr. Trad said. "There were potential limitations of our study, including the fact that our data were claims-based and there was potential for unbalanced, unmeasured confounders. Looking ahead, there is a need for innovative health insurance models."

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