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Survey Finds More Than 80% of Patients With Cancer and Survivors Say Copay Assistance Programs Help Them Afford Their Prescription Drugs


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A new Survivor Views survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) showed that a majority of respondents (83%) who had applied to a copay assistance program and were accepted said the assistance enables them to get the medication they otherwise couldn’t afford. However, more than a quarter (27%) of respondents who enrolled in a copay assistance program reported that the assistance they received was not applied to their health insurance deductible or other out-of-pocket cost requirements, which can create a barrier to care.

The survey of 1,241 patients with cancer and survivors nationwide was conducted from May 16 to 26, 2022, with another 1,370 interviews conducted among traditionally underrepresented demographic groups to allow for in-depth statistical analysis.

Removing Barriers to Care

“Everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer,” said Emma Watson, Government Relations Director at the ACS CAN. “Copay accumulator adjustment programs make it more challenging for patients to afford their medication, erecting barriers to care at a time when they should be torn down.”

Legislation in Pennsylvania would remove this barrier to care by requiring insurers to count all payments made by patients—either directly or on their behalf—toward their overall out-of-pocket maximum payment or deductible. Senate bill 196 would protect patients with cancer from delayed treatment and allow patients to realize the benefit of copay assistance programs. Currently, the legislation is in the Senate Insurance Committee. 

Sponsored by an individual pharmaceutical manufacturer or an independent foundation, copay assistance programs are offered to people with limited incomes or with high medical needs. However, insurers are using copay accumulator adjustment programs that prevent counting copay assistance toward an individual’s health insurance deductible or maximum out-of-pocket limit, making it harder for patients to afford medically necessary prescription drugs. 

The survey also found that one-fifth of all survey respondents report having skipped or delayed taking a prescribed medication due to cost, with lower-income (44%), Asian and Pacific Islander (40%), Black (44%), and Hispanic (58%) patients and survivors reporting significantly higher rates of missed medication, making the need for copay accumulator reform legislation even greater.  

“Copay accumulator reform will help improve access to more equitable and affordable care needed to save more lives from cancer,” said Ms. Watson. “We urge the Pennsylvania legislature to advance the bill."

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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