US Cancer Society Calling, Healthcare Reformers may Listen Please

by Gopalan on September 19, 2007 at 12:07 PM
US Cancer Society Calling, Healthcare Reformers may Listen Please

User pay principle. The current state-funded model is unsustainable, cry hoarse supporters of healthcare reforms in India.

But in the US itself, seeing the crisis enveloping the country being enveloped by a severe healthcare crisis, there is call for greater state intervention from many quarters.


It is not just the presidential election candidates. The American Cancer Society is also getting into the act.

It announced Monday it was dropping its traditional emphasis on anti-smoking and other kinds of prevention messages and devoting its entire budget of $ 15 million to mount a campaign for a better insurance coverage.

The change comes after cancer society officials concluded that insurance-related problems have emerged as one of the one of the largest obstacles in their goal to cut cancer death rates by 50 percent and incidence rates by 25 percent from 1990 to 2015.

The non-profit group said it was switching gears on its advertising and public education campaigning this year to stress the need for a coordinated health care system that covers the 47 million Americans who do not have health insurance.

"As a member of civil society, we have made tremendous progress in the fight against cancer, but that progress will not continue unless all Americans have access to quality health care," John Seffrin, the group's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"To make the next significant leap, we have to make it easier for Americans to get the tests and treatments they need to fight cancer," Seffrin added.

Cancer is the No. 2 killer in the United States, after heart disease, with 1.4 million new cases estimated to be diagnosed in 2007 and nearly 560,000 deaths.

In 2005, a Harvard Medical School study found that half of all U.S. bankruptcies were caused by medical bills.

"Is the choice between losing your life and losing everything really a choice?" Seffrin asked.

The group also said even people who have health insurance are not always adequately covered for cancer care.

"Unfortunately, millions of Americans think they are covered, but find out too late that their insurance is inadequate," Dr. Richard Wender, national volunteer president of the Society, said in a statement.

As a consequence they often face substantial financial burdens, including being denied the care they need, he said, adding: "No-one should have to choose between taking care of their health and paying their bills."

The group cited research showing that people who are uninsured, and people with certain types of public health insurance, are more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer compared to those with private insurance, and thus are more likely to die.

The American Heart Association's chief executive, M. Cass Wheeler, envied its resources and applauded their new campaign.

"Heart and stroke patients are going to benefit from the good this advertising campaign is going to do," Wheeler said. His organization spends $10 million each year on advertising, and focuses it on exercise and other prevention measures for patients.

The Atlanta-based cancer society, with 2006 revenues of $1 billion, has been stepping up its political activity in recent years.

In 2001, it formed a sister organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ASC CAN), to lobby and work on government health policy. The Cancer Action Network pushed for legislation that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco, and last year fought a bill that would have enabled small businesses to form health insurance pools across state lines without guaranteeing coverage of certain cancer tests.

Now it's putting together petitions and voter's guides, organizing political forums and rallies, and in May will begin a nationwide bus tour promoting health care reform.

Other groups too are pitching in. The American Medical Association recently announced a "Voice for the Uninsured" campaign with advertising in early primary states. Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals are organizing a series of hour-long presidential forums. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, an 80-organization group formed earlier this year, is placing reform-focused billboards in and around airports and this month used college cheerleaders to voice chronic disease messages outside a presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire.

Large increases in insurance costs in this decade have caused employers and others to become more interested in systemwide reform, said Ken Thorpe, an Emory University health policy professor.

"Many big businesses have come to the realization they can't solve this problem on their own," he said.

Health care is a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. Most candidates have plans -- New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton unveiled proposals for universal health care on Monday -- and groups such as labor unions, employers and insurers are also teaming up to propose plans.

Some experts predict health reform will be a more potent issue in 2008 than any time since 1992, when it helped carry Bill Clinton to the White House.

Source: Medindia
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