Washington, D.C., February 2, 2017—Requiring people to maintain continuous health insurance coverage or risk the imposition of higher premiums could pose significant burdens to cancer patients and survivors, according to Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.
During a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on insurance market changes, Lichtenfeld said the draft bills raise questions about the ways in which someone with a pre-existing condition could be charged higher premiums should they fail to maintain continuous insurance coverage. Lichtenfeld said there are, “many legitimate reasons that patients have coverage gaps.”
Those reasons, according to Lichtenfeld, are especially acute for cancer patients. Research suggests that between 40 and 85 percent of cancer patients stop working while receiving treatment, with absences from work ranging from 45 days to six months depending on the treatment. Moreover, cancer patients may lose their job because their illness or the treatment make them unable to work.
“Enacting a policy that penalizes individuals for losing their health insurance coverage—particularly at a time when they have also lost their employment—imposes an undue cost burden on individuals,” says Lichtenfeld. “Moreover, once an individual with a cancer history is no longer protected from the pre-existing condition exclusion policy, it remains unlikely that he/she will be able to purchase insurance coverage at all.”
On behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), Lichtenfeld urged committee members to consider the impact of potential changes to the health care law on cancer patients and survivors. It’s estimated that 15.5 million Americans are cancer survivors and 1.7 million will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
Read the full written testimony.