News | Radiation Therapy | February 03, 2017

ASTRO Urges Lawmakers to Maintain Healthcare Access for Vulnerable Patients

Medical specialty society outlines principles of patient-centered healthcare reform and emphasizes importance of protecting patient populations

ASTRO, lawmakers, healthcare access, insurance coverage, Congress, radiation therapy

February 3, 2017 — As the new Congress and administration wrestle with policy decisions on the provision of high-quality, affordable health coverage, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) urges policymakers to prioritize reforms that avoid disruption in coverage and care. Patients fighting cancer should not have to battle for insurance while they battle for their lives, the association said.

Studies have demonstrated that a lack of health insurance leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment, resulting in higher mortality and more invasive treatments. ASTRO strongly supports bipartisan solutions that preserve the ban on pre-existing condition limitations and eliminate annual and lifetime caps on coverage. These protections, coupled with guaranteed renewability, benefit families across the country by preventing patients from losing their health insurance or not being approved for coverage following a cancer diagnosis, according to ASTRO.

“Nearly 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and more than half of those patients will receive radiation therapy. Limiting access to insurance for this vulnerable population will limit their access to the treatments they both need and deserve,” said David C. Beyer, M.D., FASTRO, chair of ASTRO’s Board of Directors. “Moreover, health insurance limitations will add a financial burden to these patients during a time when they should be focusing on their own survival.”

ASTRO, whose members include nearly all practicing radiation oncologists in the United States, issued a letter to Congressional leadership this week to recommend that the following patient-centered principles should guide lawmakers’ healthcare reform discussions and decisions. Any future healthcare legislation should:

  • Maintain bans on pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limit caps;
  • Preserve guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewability;
  • Prohibit cost-shifting to cancer patients and providers to cover uncompensated or underfunded care;
  • Provide sufficient funds for public health, preventive services and patient navigator services for cancer patients;
  • Simplify burdensome systems to reduce costs, create a more efficient system and maximize funding for healthcare services;
  • Ensure that patient safety and quality programs improve quality and enhance the doctor/patient relationship and are meaningful to patients and physicians alike;
  • Provide access to specialty care, provider choice and the range of services that cancer patients need;
  • Safeguard access to evidence-based cancer screening and prevention programs; and
  • Include health plans that provide useful, understandable information about health plan options, physician specialist networks and transparent provider network participation criteria.

“Protecting access to insurance saves lives,” said Beyer. “ASTRO’s hope is that Congress and the new administration will uphold their commitment to cancer patients and their families by making sure they have the means necessary to fight their disease.”

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