American Society of Clinical Oncology Responds to Healthcare Reform

While ASCO recognizes that there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, we are very pleased that the newly passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law this week includes a number of things that will benefit cancer patients in the short term and the long term. However, we also recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done, and we will continue our advocacy on those additional fronts.

ASCO is most pleased that the legislation includes guaranteed insurance coverage for individuals participating in clinical trials. ASCO has been at the forefront of this issue for nearly two decades. Clinical trials remain the cornerstone of cancer research, and are often the patient’s best option. Under the new federal law, patients can now afford to participate.

ASCO also supports closing the drug prescription gap in Medicare Part D. As more and more cancer drugs become available in oral form, the drugs have become less affordable for cancer patients. Beginning in 2010, seniors who fall in the “doughnut hole,” or, spend between $2,700 and $6,154, will receive a $250 government subsidy to help cover the costs of their medication. By 2020, Medicare will cover 75 percent of drug costs in the “doughnut hole” for Medicare patients.

The removal of lifetime caps on insurance coverage is also a step forward for cancer patients. Many cancer patients who need repeated courses of treatment can easily exceed their caps and find themselves unable to afford needed treatment and medication. ASCO looks forward to seeing the financial burdens often associated with cancer treatment ease under this new federal policy.

Children with cancer will also benefit from the legislation. In just six months, insurers will no longer be able to exclude children with pre-existing conditions from being covered by their family policy. For current policies, that means insurance companies must rescind pre-existing condition exclusions. ASCO is also pleased that dependent children up to age 26 will be able to remain on their parents’ family policy effective immediately.

While ASCO supports improved access to healthcare for millions of Americans, uninsured cancer patients still won’t have sufficient coverage. These patients cannot afford to wait. ASCO is ready to work with policymakers and the Obama Administration in order to fill this urgent gap.

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