Advocates for cancer patients will closely monitor the debate over the future of health care, with the goal of persuading lawmakers to ensure any changes will not impact those needing treatment and services, including preventive care.
One group, which held an annual forum Tuesday on the future of health care, expressed deep concern with the failed U.S. House of Representatives proposal to reform the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) argued that the proposed legislation would have led to fewer people being insured. Studies show that means individuals seek treatment later and that leads to worse outcomes, Anna Howard, the organization's head of policy development, said.
Now, with the failure of the House Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), the ACS CAN, as with many others in Washington, D.C., and beyond, are on watching what might happen next.
The National Forum on the Future of Health Care, held at the National Press Club in Washington, was an opportunity to bring together employers, insurers, plans, practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry, ACS CAN said.
Howard said her organization's critique of Obamacare, which led the ACS to get involved in lobbying for and ultimately endorsing the legislation, still stands.
"We got involved to make sure people have good access to health insurance coverage, not only access to treatment and services, but also preventative services," Howard told Patient Daily. "That it is coverage is accessible, affordable and presented to consumers in a way that they are able to compare plan options."
Obamacare meets those criteria, Howard said.
Concerns with the AHCA, viewed solely through the lens of prevention and treatment of cancer, centered on the potential loss of coverage for those with low income, changes to the premium tax credit structure and the expanded five-to-one age rating, which would have negatively impacted older cancer survivors, Howard said.
"It was a perfect storm," she said.
Even as the debate continues, Howard said the ACS CAN is committed to its position that states that did not expand Medicaid, including large states like Florida and Texas, should do so.
As to what might happen over the coming months in Congress after it returns from recess next week, Howard said her organization "will continue to stress our position through the cancer survivors' lens."
"Access to health insurance coverage is key, and if they are going to come up with new legislative proposals, they have to address the needs of the 15 million cancer survivors and the 1.7 million expected to be diagnosed this year," Howard said. "Cancer is not a partisan issue."