The effects of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) on breast cancer diagnosis and treatment among vulnerable populations are unknown. We examined time to first breast cancer diagnostic testing, diagnosis, and chemotherapy among a group of women whose employers switched their insurance coverage from health plans with low deductibles ($500 or less) to plans with high deductibles ($1,000 or more) between 2004 and 2014. Primary subgroups of interest comprised 54,403 low-income and 76,776 high-income women continuously enrolled in low-deductible plans for a year and then up to four years in HDHPs. Matched controls had contemporaneous low-deductible enrollment. Low-income women in HDHPs experienced relative delays of 1.6 months to first breast imaging, 2.7 months to first biopsy, 6.6 months to incident early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, and 8.7 months to first chemotherapy. High-income HDHP members had shorter delays that did not differ significantly from those of their low-income counterparts. HDHP members living in metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, predominantly white, and predominantly nonwhite areas also experienced delayed breast cancer care. Policies may be needed to reduce out-of-pocket spending obligations for breast cancer care.
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