HELP Committee Markup A Critical Step Toward Comprehensive Health Care Reform This Year

Committee’s Focus on Quality Should Emphasize Patient-Centered Care

WASHINGTON, DC -- June 17, 2009 -- The health care reform legislation that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to review today would extend access to quality care to all Americans by guaranteeing issue of plans to all applicants, eliminating discrimination based on health status or history, capping out-of-pocket costs that patients pay and placing greater emphasis on disease prevention critical components that will benefit families affected by cancer.

“To eliminate death and suffering from cancer, all Americans must have access to quality, affordable health care,” said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Families struggling to afford the growing cost of lifesaving cancer care need Congress and the President to enact health care reform this year.”

ACS CAN is the leading voice of patients in the health care reform debate and has worked with a broad cross-section of stakeholders for the past several years to build momentum for reform nationwide. ACS CAN will ultimately support legislation that meets specific goals critical to the fight against cancer.

First, legislation must provide all Americans with insurance coverage that is available, adequate, affordable, and administratively simple. Consistent with this principle, legislation must 1) eliminate any use of health status in eligibility and premium rating, including prohibiting pre-existing condition restrictions and premium surcharges for smoking and obesity, 2) limit the cost burden on families by capping out-of-pocket costs, abolishing annual and lifetime limits on benefits and providing subsidies for low-income individuals and families who cannot afford care, and 3) establish a process to determine a minimum level of benefits based on science.

In addition, legislation must transform the current “sick care” system to promote and encourage disease prevention through better access to preventive services and integration of existing government prevention entities into a single, cohesive process to identify national priorities for prevention services based on scientific evidence, set performance standards and measure quality.

Recent polling data commissioned by ACS CAN revealed that 40 percent of families affected by cancer had trouble affording care in the past few years and one in four people currently receiving cancer-related care has delayed treatment in the past year.  The data shed light on the large numbers of people who are fighting for their lives while also having to fight for their life savings.  Families affected by cancer need action, now not later.

The HELP Committee today began with the issue of quality care. ACS CAN believes that legislation must include measures to better coordinate care, improve access to palliative care and address quality of life needs for patients with chronic diseases such as cancer.

Research proves that incorporating palliative care which addresses patients’ physical, psychological, and emotional needs into treatment plans can help reduce overall health care spending by helping patients to articulate their goals of care, matching treatments to those goals, and eliminating unwanted and unnecessary costly medical treatments.  In sum, palliative care improves quality while reducing costs.

“Patients gain when doctors engage them in a coordinated way by including them in all aspects of the decision making process from the time of diagnosis and through the course of a disease,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “We need to move to a model of caring for chronically ill patients and their caregivers that helps them live better with the disease.”

ACS CAN is dedicated to ensuring that patients receive access to the full continuum of care.  Health care reform legislation should include measures that address pain and symptom management, care planning, coordination and palliative care for patients and survivors.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit

Steven Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711

Alissa Havens
Phone: (202) 661-5772


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