Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act: Kinder Future for Older Breast Cancer Survivors?

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Have you ever heard of the CCCIA -- the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act? No, neither had I, till a friend who works at our local cancer center clued me in. The CCCIA is actually a rather dry document whose official name is H.R. 1078; it’s a bill making its way through Congress. And surprisingly, once I managed to wade through enough of the legalese to figure out what it was saying, this bill could have a real impact on the lives of all American cancer survivors.

    Here’s the title of what was actually submitted, on February 15, by Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia and Congresswoman Lois Capps of California: “To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of comprehensive cancer care planning under the Medicare Program and to improve the care furnished to individuals diagnosed with cancer by establishing a Medicare hospice care demonstration program and grants programs for cancer palliative care and symptom management programs, provider education, and related research.” OK… what does THAT mean?
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    Well, let’s start speaking in laymen’s terms here. H.R. 1078 actually has a much more engaging title–the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act: CCCIA. There’s a thorough report on the bill at canceradvocacy.org, Web site of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the nation’s oldest survivor-led cancer advocacy organization. The NCCS sets priorities each year for changing public policy around cancer, and this summary of its 2007 priorities is the framework in which its support of H.R. 1078 rests:

    More than ten million Americans are living with cancer, and more than a million are diagnosed with cancer each year. Improvements in cancer detection, diagnosis, and treatment have contributed to the significant increase in the number of cancer survivors. For some, cancer has become a chronic disease that requires ongoing and possibly long-term management by the oncologist.

    The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship continues:

    For many more, cancer remains an acute disease requiring aggressive treatment over a shorter period of time, and immediate decisions about treatment may be necessary. For all cancer survivors, there may be significant physical side effects from cancer and its treatments, including long-term effects. In addition, cancer survivors and their families and friends may experience crippling emotional effects from cancer and its treatment, and their relationships may be put under substantial stress. Finally, the threat of recurrence looms for many cancer survivors. All cancer survivors would benefit from information about treatment choices, assistance with evaluating treatment choices, and coordination of curative treatment and symptom management.”

    In short, H.R. 1078 would provide Medicare reimbursement for the treatment of cancer side effects, as well as for the actual surgery, radiation, and chemo. And not just initially, but years later. This might include payment for palliative care, an important new medical specialty aimed at improving the end of a patient’s life; and care for the emotional issues so many of us face, often years after our diagnosis.

  • Passage of the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act would signal the beginning of a “kinder, gentler” era in Medicare’s coverage of cancer. And, with 60% of cancer survivors eligible for Medicare, and that number growing every day, H.R. 1078 is a bill that will affect millions of us.
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    Want to urge your congressperson to support the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act? Send him or her an e-letter from the NCCS Web site. Make your voice heard: there’s power in numbers. And this is one case where we’re fortunate that we cancer survivors number in the millions.
Published On: April 19, 2007