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Senate health care bill could harm cancer patients and survivors

July 14, 2017

We knew the Senate health care bill was bad for cancer patients and survivors, but the latest version of the bill released is shockingly worse than earlier drafts. The bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, could be devastating to cancer patients and survivors.

The current bill could:

  • Significantly raise premiums for some people with pre-existing conditions

Under an amendment introduced by Senator Ted Cruz and included in the newest version of the bill, plans that don’t meet requirements in the Affordable Care Act would be sold, meaning some plans offered would not cover needed treatments of people with cancer or survivors but would have lower premiums & fewer services. With younger and healthier people able to purchase those plans, it would leave older or sicker people left to buy insurance plans that meet requirements like protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

Without younger, healthier people in those insurance markets, the premiums for people with pre-existing conditions could be astonishingly high. ACS CAN joined other patient advocacy groups in sending a letter to senators expressing their deep concern for this amendment.

  • Re-impose annual and lifetime caps on coverage

Fighting cancer is very expensive. If insurance companies re-impose these caps on coverage, cancer patients could exceed them and be forced to pay exorbitant amounts of money for their treatment.

  • Deny cancer patients coverage of essential cancer treatments

Under the current health care law, essential treatments and screenings are covered, regardless of their costs. If this is eliminated, cancer patients could be denied coverage for lifesaving screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies and expensive cancer treatments. 

  • Significantly cut Medicaid funding

Large cuts in Medicaid funding could make critical treatment unaffordable for millions of cancer patients. Out-of-pocket costs could skyrocket.

  • Prevent cancer patients from signing up for insurance in critical times

The Senate bill imposes a lock-out period. Anyone who hasn’t had insurance for 63 straight days would have to wait six-months before they can buy new insurance. A gap in coverage due to situations like job loss or a death of a spouse could prevent someone newly diagnosed with cancer from signing up for insurance coverage.   

“Having access to adequate, affordable health insurance is essential to our nation’s ability to continue reducing death and suffering from cancer,” says ACS CAN President Chris Hansen. “American Cancer Society research shows that patients with health insurance are more likely to have their cancer diagnosed at an earlier stage when the disease is less expensive to treat and their chances of survival are greater.”

ACS CAN volunteers across the country have been working tirelessly urging lawmakers to ensure that any changes in the current health care law provide cancer patients and survivors with improved access to quality, affordable health coverage.

In June, ACS CAN volunteers joined other patient and consumer advocacy groups on Capitol Hill to ask their senators to keep patients and survivors covered as the Senate considers health care legislation.

Laurie Merges-Jett, an ACS CAN volunteer and breast cancer survivor from Ohio, said after meeting with senators, “No one should have to battle life-threatening diseases with the anxiety of losing or not having any health insurance. We all deserve a chance to live, and my children deserve to have their mother beside them as they grow up.”

Join Laurie and our volunteers across the country by calling and asking your senator to vote NO on the health care bill so all cancer patients and survivors have access to affordable, quality coverage.

Reading this over the weekend? Take action by emailing your senator instead.