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Health insurance companies and the U.S. government work hand in hand to provide Americans with the financial resources they need to stay healthy, and to treat illness when it strikes.
That’s the goal, anyway, though few would say that goal is being met. In a relationship that often feels more adversarial than collegial, government and private health insurers have been wary partners over the years, at best.
It’s understandable. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and have a bottom line to meet. As costs rise, so do the premiums paid by those insured.
Meanwhile, in the interest of society as a whole, the government wants to keep health care costs, including insurance premiums, in line with personal income. Given this scenario of competing interests, it’s no wonder the healthcare scene in America is constantly churning.
The Affordable Care Act
A major change to the system was launched in 2010, and fully implemented by 2014. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) introduced a wide array of regulations around health insurance: what it covers, and how much the average American should be expected to pay.
And while many legislators (and not a few citizens) opposed Obamacare, the cancer community welcomed it, including the American Cancer Society. Why? Because of its cancer-friendly regulations. The ACS offers this summary of the ACA’s benefits, including the following:
Insurance companies can no longer refuse a person — adults and children alike — coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition (e.g., being a cancer patient or survivor).
Preventive cancer screening, including mammograms, are fully covered by insurance.
People can no longer have their insurance canceled just because they’re diagnosed with cancer.
Yearly and lifetime limits on care and benefits are no longer in effect, making it possible for stage 4 cancer patients to receive continuing treatment throughout their remaining life.
Health insurance is now available for cancer patients participating in clinical trials.
Cancer patients can’t be charged higher premiums on the basis of their disease.
Due to a variety of new plans at different price points, more people than previously can afford health care — meaning cancer treatment has less chance of wiping out life savings.
Launched in February and headed up by Vice President Joe Biden, the mission of this $1 billion program is to eliminate cancer. With $195 million already approved for fiscal year 2016, the National Institutes of Health has received a much-needed injection of new funding. An additional $755 million to support cancer research at both the NIH and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is proposed for fiscal year 2017.
Contrast this with the 2007 federal budget, which proposed cutting National Cancer Institute funds by $40 million.
With the presidential election coming up, it’s time to evaluate all of the issues that matter most to you, and to choose the candidate who’s most in line with you on those issues. If you’re a cancer patient or survivor, or a family member or friend of a patient or survivor, ask yourself: which candidate will help forge national policies that best help me deal with cancer?
For most voters, electing a president is important. For those facing cancer, it can be a life or death decision. Think hard, and vote wisely.
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Breast cancer survivor and award-winning author PJ Hamel, a long-time contributor to the HealthCentral community, counsels women with breast cancer through the volunteer program at her local hospital. She founded and manages a large and active online survivor support network.
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.