UCLA awarded $9.3 million to help provide prostate cancer treatment in the community

State-funded program provides access to free treatment for uninsured and underinsured men in California
Dr. Mark Litwin

Members of the UCLA urology department have received $9.3 million of funding from the state of California to help combat the financial burden of cancer treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in American men.

During the next three years, the award will directly support the 17-year-old IMPACT program, which stands for Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with prostate cancer.

Dr. Mark Litwin, professor of urology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and his team have led the efforts of the state-funded program that provides free, high-quality prostate cancer treatment to California men who are underinsured or uninsured.

"With this program, the state of California made a statement that nobody should be left behind," said Litwin, a member of UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and founding director of the program. "Our goal from the beginning has always been to provide treatment to the underserved, underinsured population in their own communities while helping improve their lives."

While more people are signing up for health insurance, many still cannot afford the costs of important health care services, especially when it comes to cancer treatments. More than one-third of insured people who have cancer and are receiving some type of therapy for their disease face out-of-pocket costs that are far greater than expected, with some paying almost one-third of their income in health care-related costs. This number is even higher for those at or below the federal poverty level.

Along with providing comprehensive care to a population that would otherwise go without, the program combines health care and public health approaches to treating the whole patient. IMPACT promotes increased self-efficacy, knowledge, and health literacy through its clinical team model, in which each patient is paired with a nurse case manager to assist with their care coordination and management.

To date, more than 2,200 men have enrolled and received prostate cancer treatment services under the IMPACT Program. Backed by more than $85 million in support from the California Department of Health Care Services since it began, IMPACT contracts with more than 600 health care providers across the state who treat men enrolled in the program, as well as with mental health professionals, local health departments, hospitals, outpatient facilities, pharmaceutical companies and others for the additional services patients need.

"Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, everybody thinks everybody is insured," said Laura Baybridge, the IMPACT program's original administrator and currently the chief administrative officer for the urology department. "What they don't recognize is that even though someone is insured, it doesn't mean they can afford their out-of-pocket expenses. We're finding people simply can't afford their insurance so we really want those patients that don't have a safety net to call and to get enrolled."