The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) sent a Dec. 8 letter to congressional leadership stressing that any repeal of the health care law needs to be accompanied by an immediate replacement.
"More than 20 million individuals including many cancer patients and survivors now have insurance facilitated by current law. Any replacement plan should stabilize and hopefully increase the number of insured Americans. Delaying enactment of a replacement for two or three years, and leaving insurers without any certainty in projecting risk, could lead to the collapse of the individual health insurance market with long-term consequences," said the letter. It was addressed to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader; U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Democratic leader; U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Democratic leader-elect; U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), speaker of the House; and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA), minority leader.
The letter asks that they "carefully consider the impact on the health care of millions of cancer patients, survivors, and their families as you consider legislative proposals to replace and repeal the current health law. For years, millions of cancer patients and survivors could not get or keep health insurance coverage simply because of their medical condition. Millions more did not have access to critical preventive services that could have made a difference in their prognosis.
"The Society’s peer-reviewed scientific research has shown that uninsured and underinsured people are more likely than those with insurance to be diagnosed with cancer at a more advanced stage when treatment is costlier and patients are more likely to die from the disease. We strongly urge that any replacement of the current law build on or improve current protections for patients."
ACS CAN is asking that several key protections for cancer patients and survivors be maintained, including:
- Prohibiting patients from being denied health coverage because they have a pre-existing condition such as cancer
- Preventing patients from being charged more for health insurance because of their health status
- Prohibiting annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage that can cut off needed care for patients with cancer
- Providing individuals and families with lower incomes meaningful opportunities to acquire affordable and adequate health insurance
- Reasonably limiting the amount patients must pay in out-of-pocket costs and deductibles
- Ensuring seniors have consistent prescription drug coverage that allows them to afford the medications they need.
- Eliminating disparities in prevention and treatment of cancer among our nation’s most vulnerable by ensuring comprehensive, affordable coverage is available in every state either through Medicaid or cost-sharing assistance.
ACS CAN President Chris Hansen, who signed the letter, closed by saying: “We are confident lawmakers want to do what is in the best interest of cancer patients, survivors and those at risk of cancer. ACS CAN stands ready to work with Congress to ensure any plan that is proposed meets the needs of families affected by cancer and guarantees uninterrupted and meaningful health insurance coverage."