[Note: Today’s guest blogger is Marc Hymovitz,
Director of Government Relations & Advocacy American Cancer Society, New England Division]
While Massachusetts health reform has been successful in reducing the number of uninsured residents and ensuring a minimum, adequate level of coverage, barriers to care still remain. Passage of meaningful health care reform at the federal level would address at least one of those barriers by prohibiting cost sharing on life-saving preventative and early detection services such as cancer screenings.
Like premiums, co-pays continue to rise at an unsustainable rate. In fact, according to a report by the New America Foundation, by 2016 the average co-pay will increase 74.6 percent in Massachusetts. Removing barriers to care such as co-pays is one of the most effective ways to increase utilization rates of life-saving preventative services. By including provisions to do this in health reform proposals, Congress has acknowledged that prevention and early detection are sound long-term investments in our country’s future.
Fewer than half of Americans currently receive clinically recommended prevention services even though many of them have insurance, however high co-pays make access to care unaffordable. Even in Massachusetts where some routine preventative services are mandated before a deductible applies, many services are not included and co-pays can and are still be charged. The health care reform proposals currently being debated in Congress focus on making the most effective proven prevention programs and services, such as breast and colorectal cancer screenings and tobacco cessation programs accessible to all.
Last year more than 36,000 Massachusetts residents were diagnosed with cancer, and more then 13,000 died from the disease. The fact remains that uninsured and underinsured citizens in our Commonwealth are less likely to receive cancer prevention services, more likely to be treated for cancer at late stages of disease, more likely to receive substandard care and services, and ultimately, more likely to die from cancer. Passage of meaningful health care reform will ensure that screening rates will increase, cancers will be detected in earlier, more treatable stages and lives will be saved, in Massachusetts and across the nation.