Health insurance and financial hardship in cancer survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Academic Article


  • Uninsured or underinsured individuals with cancer are likely to experience financial hardship, including forgoing healthcare or non-healthcare needs such as food, housing, or utilities. This study evaluates the association between health insurance coverage and financial hardship among cancer survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. This cross-sectional analysis used Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) survey data from May to July 2020. Cancer survivors who previously received case management or financial aid from PAF self-reported challenges paying for healthcare and non-healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Associations between insurance coverage and payment challenges were estimated using Poisson regression with robust standard errors, which allowed for estimation of adjusted relative risks (aRR). Of 1, 437 respondents, 74% had annual household incomes <$48, 000. Most respondents were enrolled in Medicare (48%), 22% in employer-sponsored insurance, 13% in Medicaid, 6% in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, and 3% were uninsured. Approximately 31% of respondents reported trouble paying for healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents who were uninsured (aRR 2.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.83–3.64), enrolled in an ACA plan (aRR 1.86, 95% CI 1.28–2.72), employer-sponsored insurance (aRR 1.70, 95% CI 1.23–2.34), or Medicare (aRR 1.49, 95% CI 1.09–2.03) had higher risk of trouble paying for healthcare compared to Medicaid enrollees. Challenges paying for non-healthcare needs were reported by 57% of respondents, with 40% reporting trouble paying for food, 31% housing, 28% transportation, and 20% internet. In adjusted models, Medicare and employer-sponsored insurance enrollees were less likely to have difficulties paying for non-healthcare needs compared to Medicaid beneficiaries. Despite 97% of our cancer survivor sample being insured, 31% and 57% reported trouble paying for healthcare and non-healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, respectively. Greater attention to both medical and non-medical financial burden is needed given the economic pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Williams CP; Rocque GB; Caston NE; Gallagher KD; Angove RSM; Anderson E; de Moor JS; Halpern MT; Offodile AC; Gidwani R
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 8 August