Late Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Linked to Insurance in the U.S.
A study conducted by the American Cancer Society found that uninsured, those covered by Medicaid, and black individuals are more likely than not to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the later stages of the disease. The study went on to detail that those covered by private insurance, on the other hand, are more likely to have their thyroid cancer diagnosed in the early stages, which greatly increases the chance of full recovery.
Uninsured patients are more likely to be diagnosed in Stage 3 or Stage 4 of their cancer, while patients with private insurance were more likely to be diagnosed in Stage 1. The study's authors concluded that patients without private insurance are not receiving optimum care and these patients' cancer screening and timely diagnosis is affected. The study also stated, however, that there was a strong possibility that late diagnosis of thyroid cancer could be a result of cultural problems or patient education.
What Should Patients Without Private Insurance Do to Test for Thyroid Cancer?
Sometimes mobile screening centers are likely to visit communities and offer free screening tests. Many local health departments may do the same and offer free screening on-site or at the clinic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also offers screening that reimburses participating health departments. Contact your state or local health department for more information on cancer screening programs.
Common Thyroid Cancer Screening Tests
Common screening tests for thyroid cancer often include neck palpation and examination by an experienced thyroid cancer surgeon. The accuracy of neck palpation as a screening test varies according to the surgeon's experience and skill in addition to the size of the mass, if one exists.
The American Cancer Society recommends screening for thyroid cancer by examination of the neck; palpation every 3 years in people that are between the ages of 21-40 years old and annually in people who are more than 40 years old.
An ultrasound to detect nodules may be ordered by the attending physician if there is reason to suspect a thyroid mass.
Benefits of Early Detection
The benefits of early detection can not be understated. Early detection of thyroid cancer has a profound impact on the patient's prognosis. Many studies have found a significantly higher survival rate as well an increased chance of full recovery in patients whose cancer was detected early by screening.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you have any questions or concerns about thyroid cancer, it is highly recommended that you speak to a professional. And check back here for more thyroid cancer news.
Getting Past Insurance Problems:
A Guide for Patients with Thyroid Disorders
Making it through each day can sometimes be a challenge for patients with thyroid disorders. Managing symptoms like the anxiety and restlessness of hyperthyroidism or the crushing fatigue and depression of hypothyroidism can be draining in and of itself, and dealing with doctors, physicians, and even friends and loved ones who don't always understand the impact of these diseases can add insult to injury.
On top of all of these issues, a growing number of thyroid patients have begun to encounter difficulties when dealing with HMOs, private health insurance companies, or government health agencies. Common complaints include denials of service, rejection of treatments deemed to be too "experimental," or refusal of coverage for treatment of symptoms and health problems that result from thyroid problems.
If you or a loved one has encountered these kinds of difficulties, don't panic and don't despair. Although it can be a long, challenging process, it is possible to negotiate with your health insurance provider and achieve a successful outcome. This week, we'll take a look at some methods you can use to help persuade your insurance carrier to provide better coverage for your thyroid disorder.
Navigating the Maze of Health Insurance
Over the course of the last several decades, the health insurance industry has gone increasingly complex. With the rise of HMOs and managed care in the 1980s, more insurance companies began to focus on the costs of health care -- and devising ways to minimize their own payouts to patients.
Supporters of the insurance industry argue that a focus on the cost-effectiveness of common treatments benefits everyone by keeping the price of health care down. However, opponents of this approach contend that a growing number of the decisions made by health insurance companies seem to be based on dollars and cents, rather than compassion or genuine concern for the patients' best interests.
This whole debate grows even more complicated in the context of treatment for thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland -- and the endocrine system as a whole -- is enormously complex, and scientists are continuing to work toward unraveling the mysteries of its function and role in the body. Compared to many other organs, the thyroid gland was discovered relatively recently, and it is only in the last several decades that the full spectrum of thyroid disorders have been identified and described in the research literature.
Another problem is the fact that thyroid disorders can cause an extremely broad array of symptoms. A patient with hypothyroidism, for example, may also be grappling with obesity, chronic fatigue, and depression, to name just a few. If not directly caused by the thyroid imbalance, all of these symptoms are surely exacerbated by improper thyroid function. Still, these are exactly the kind of broad, indistinct symptoms that insurance companies often balk at covering.
Generally speaking, most thyroid patients typically experience little or no difficulty receiving full coverage for the symptoms that are directly related to their diagnosis. However, once you move outside of that small circle of clearly-defined symptoms, you are more likely to run into trouble.
Acting As Your Own Advocate
So, what can you do if your insurance company, HMO, or government health care plan has refused to pay for a thyroid-related disorder? Surprisingly enough, there are many avenues for recourse if you have been denied coverage. Here are some tips that can help you work through this challenge.
- Document everything. It's absolutely vital that you record every interaction with your insurance company. Get a notebook or binder and use it to collect documentation. Every time that you speak with a company representative over the phone, make a detailed factual journal entry about it, including the time, date, and name of the person you spoke with, as well as a concise account of what happened in the call.
- Practice detachment. It's easy to get emotional when your health and well-being are on the line, but your campaign is likely to be much more effective if you can stay as calm and poised as possible. Imagine yourself as a lawyer or mediator who wants the best outcome for the case, but who isn't personally impacted by it.
- Don't take 'no' for an answer. If you're turned down, it's not the end of the world. The company's policies are open to interpretation, and if you persevere, you may get a more favorable reading from another company representative.
- Take the escalator. Each time that a customer representative denies coverage, take your case to the next level in the organizational chain. Once you sense you've reached an impasse, calmly request to be transferred to the supervisor or manager. Keep escalating your case until you get the outcome you want, or until you reach the executive level. If you've talked to the CEO and you're still not satisfied with the results you've gotten, it may be time to consult with an attorney.
For Further Reading
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