Addressing Barriers to Breast Cancer Care in California: The 2016 - 2017 Landscape for Policy Change

by A. J. Scheitler; Beth Glenn; Michelle Ko; Ninez A. Ponce; Riti Shimkhada

Feb 1, 2018

In 2018, over 29,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in California and an estimated 4,500 will die of the disease. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has successfully expanded access to health insurance and breast cancer care, numerous population subgroups remain uninsured, and many others may lack adequate coverage for treatment and management of their breast cancer. Although insurance improves breast cancer outcomes compared to those with no insurance, challenges may remain even for the insured. Among those insured, there appear to be significant barriers to cancer care as health insurance premiums are increasing, networks are narrowing, and as the cost of breast cancer drugs is increasing.


This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the significant barriers and challenges to accessing breast cancer care in California through the  completion of three key tasks: (1) a synthesis of the peer reviewed literature, news media, reports and policy briefs, (2) completion of a series of key informant/stakeholder interviews, and (3) an analysis of social media. The authors find five categories of barriers: (1) Health System Barriers, (2) Insurance Barriers, (3) High Costs, (4) Individual and Cultural Characteristics, and (5) Language.


Although many barriers are shared across insurance types, where possible, this report provides insight on barriers unique to the insurance status of women, specifically for the uninsured, those covered by Medi-Cal, and those covered by commercial insurance. Findings from this report can be used to guide efforts of policymakers to improve timely access to breast cancer care among all women in California.

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