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Other ways to get insurance

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If you weren’t insured before your breast cancer diagnosis or you lost your health insurance for any reason, it can feel scary and overwhelming to think about paying for care. There is help available – you just have to know where to look.

Start by getting the basics on our private, state, and federal insurance page, and learn more here about some specific programs. Your health care provider can connect you with a patient navigator or social worker; they will be in the best position to help you find health insurance coverage, local services, and government programs in your state. Trusted friends and family members can help you explore options as well.

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Medicare and Medicaid

After employer-sponsored private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid are the most common ways Americans get health coverage. In 2020, more than one-third of Americans were enrolled in one of these programs for at least part of the year.

Medicare is government insurance for people age 65 and older, as well as some people with qualifying disabilities. Medicaid is insurance for people with low incomes. While both are government programs, Medicaid is administered by individual states, and rules for eligibility vary depending on where you live.

You can get more information about your potential eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid on our private, state, and federal insurance page. Apply for Medicaid, even if you don’t think you meet the income criteria. Many financial assistance programs require that you apply to Medicaid before they consider you, so keep records of your application.

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Health insurance marketplaces

Online health insurance marketplaces were opened for each state under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare. Depending on where you live, you can access a marketplace run by your state, or one run by the federal government. Visiting healthcare.gov will direct you to the correct marketplace for your state.

Using the marketplace, you can shop for insurance and compare plans and prices. Plans are categorized based on the price of the monthly premium and how much of your health care costs the plan is expected to cover. You can also find out if you are able to get financial assistance from the government to help pay for the monthly insurance premium. The amount of assistance you receive is based on your income.

You can shop for private health insurance outside the government marketplace, but it's important to understand that you will not be eligible for financial assistance for the premiums. You may also come across coverage options that are not compliant with the ACA, meaning they may not meet the standards for you to be considered covered based on ACA rules. These plans may not cover essential services required by the ACA, can charge you a higher premium based on your health history, and can place caps on how much of your care is covered.

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National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

Through this program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides screening and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, or underserved women for free or at very little cost. The program is funded in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, five Pacific islands affiliated with the U.S., and 13 American Indian/Alaskan Native tribes or tribal organizations. If you were diagnosed through this program, you are eligible to have your treatment covered by Medicaid.

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Veteran’s benefits

To find out if you or a loved one qualify for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) visit va.gov or call (877) 222-8387.

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Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers low-cost health coverage for children to families whose income does not qualify them for Medicaid. Like Medicaid, CHIP is administered by your state, which sets rules for eligibility and coverage. In some states, you may be eligible for CHIP if you are pregnant or have children. Contact a social worker at your doctor’s office or your state’s department of health and human services to learn about the program. Information can also be found at medicaid.gov.

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Other insurance options

In addition to state and federal health insurance programs, there are some other ways you may be able to access health insurance coverage:

  • Some unions, civic groups, and associations.
  • Employers. Many employers offer their employees sponsored group health coverage.
  • Health insurance extension programs, like COBRA and others offered by individual states.
  • A spouse. If your spouse has employer-sponsored insurance, you are eligible to join their plan.
  • Young adults, up to age 26, are eligible to get coverage under their parents' health insurance plan.
  • HMOs
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Reviewed and updated: August 31, 2015

Reviewed by: Joanna L. Fawzy Morales Esq

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.

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