Having a serious illness like breast cancer is a calamity for individuals and families. Along with the pain, discomfort, and dislocation comes the issue of how to pay the medical expenses for the care and treatment of the disease. If the seriously ill person has inadequate or no insurance, these problems are aggravated.
Stories abound about seriously ill people losing private health insurance following diagnosis with a catastrophic disease, remaining in jobs just to maintain health insurance, or facing financial hardship because of gaps in coverage. Yet surprisingly little research has focused on the problems that people with serious illness face with health coverage and, in particular, how concerns about access to health insurance coverage shape their lives.
Further, despite profoundly moving anecdotes of cancer victims and other seriously ill people about their problems with health insurance and despite recent federal and state efforts to reform the private health insurance market in ways discussed below, neither the federal government, states, nor the private sector has crafted comprehensive strategies to enhance health coverage for the seriously ill.