Copyright © 2023 CancerCare. Reprinted with permission.
Biomarker testing is a necessary tool in the advancing world of precision cancer treatment. According to a new survey released by CancerCare, a leading national cancer support organization, biomarker testing helped physicians tailor therapy for nearly all the respondent patients (93%) whose cancers were tested over the past 3 years. Two in 10 (20%) patients with cancer surveyed were able to avoid unnecessary chemotherapy and/or radiation and 10% became eligible for a clinical trial (Figure 1).
Despite the significant and demonstrable benefits to surveyed patients, 3 of 10 (29%) respondents who received biomarker testing did not have the test covered by their insurance (Figure 2). Some survey respondents reported that biomarker test coverage was originally denied, and they had to fight to get it covered. Others had to find ways to pay out-of-pocket or seek financial assistance to cover the cost of the testing.
Unfortunately, health insurance plans often limit cancer patients’ access to recommended biomarker testing, impose burdensome prior authorization protocols, or require unaffordable cost-sharing, which can prevent or delay cancer patients’ access to optimal treatments. Prior authorization, a significant source of roadblocks to timely testing and treatment, was required by one-quarter (25%) of the patients with cancer surveyed (Figure 2).
Biomarker testing has been proven to be extremely valuable in identifying the most effective therapy for eligible patients with cancer because it helps them receive the right treatments at the right time while also saving money and leading to better outcomes. However, there are still gaps in health insurance coverage for this crucial test. Patients and physicians may be required to jump through hoops to get authorization and then, the cost-sharing can be prohibitive.
“Despite the fact that biomarker testing has dramatically changed the way cancer is diagnosed and treated, many insurers do not provide adequate coverage for the test,” said Patricia J. Goldsmith, Chief Executive Officer of CancerCare. “Employers that don’t sufficiently cover this testing in their insurance plans create a real risk that their employees will not receive the most effective, and sometimes, lifesaving therapy.”
Eleven states have enacted or are about to enact legislation mandating that health plans cover biomarker testing for patients with cancer. The good news is that 18 more states have introduced biomarker coverage legislation, with the goal of requiring that state-regulated public and private health plans provide consistent coverage for this testing.
Biomarker Testing Is a Healthcare Equity Issue
Biomarker testing is increasingly a healthcare equity issue according to data from recent studies.1 Research published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology shows significant gaps in the rate of biomarker testing between Black and white lung and colorectal patients with cancer, which can lead to disparities in clinical trial participation and hinder access to the most effective treatments. A key way to address these barriers is to broaden insurance coverage of biomarker testing, as recommended by medical experts.
To help those involved in benefit design make optimal decisions about covering cancer biomarker testing for their employees, CancerCare recently released the Employer Toolkit on Biomarker Testing.2
About the Survey
A total of 295 people who were diagnosed with cancer from 2019 to 2022 participated in the 2023 CancerCare Biomarker Survey, which was conducted in January 2023.
Founded in 1944, CancerCare (www.cancercare.org) is the leading national organization providing free, professional support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical, and financial challenges of cancer. Our comprehensive services include resource navigation, counseling, and support groups over the phone, online, and in-person; educational workshops; publications; and financial and co-payment assistance. All CancerCare services are provided by master’s-prepared oncology social workers and world-leading cancer experts.
About the Biomarker Toolkit for Employers
CancerCare’s Biomarker Toolkit is a free resource designed to help employers understand the importance of including comprehensive coverage of biomarker testing in employee benefits packages. Access the toolkit at www.cancercare.org/biomarkertoolkit.
- Bruno DS, Hess LM, Li X, et al. Disparities in biomarker testing and clinical trial enrollment among patients with lung, breast, or colorectal cancers in the United States. JCO Precis Oncol. 2022 Jun 6. Epub ahead of print.
- CancerCare. Employers’ prescription for employee protection: biomarker toolkit. https://media.cancercare.org/documents/298/original/CancerCare-Biomarker-Toolkit-FINAL-v13.pdf. Accessed April 12, 2023.