A survey finds four in ten cancer patients are having serious problems paying their medical bills , and some Iowans are having to spend their life savings in order to save their lives.
Dan Smith, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, says significant reforms to our nation’s health care system are urgently needed and must include cancer patients.
"I think Congress is taking serious the stories that they’re hearing," Smith says. "We did have a person from Iowa yesterday, Darla Snyder, who came from Walnut, Iowa, and told her story to members of the Iowa delegation. What we’re seeing is an emphasis on prevention, which is important."
Snyder was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall and while being treated, the company where she was an office manager closed and she lost her job — and her insurance. Snyder is among those appealing to U.S. lawmakers for reform. Smith says the new health care system will have to focus more on prevention and guarantee quality coverage for everyone.
"Both Senators Harkin and Grassley are very active in this debate, supporting that kind of work," Smith says. "We’re also looking at getting better coverage for folks…to get rid of pre-existing exclusions for coverage for things like cancer. There’s a lot of support for that. We haven’t seen legislation yet but that will make a big difference for people with cancer."
Smith says winning the war on cancer depends on expanding access to quality, affordable health care. The study found nearly 46-million Americans are uninsured and more than 25-million are underinsured. He says those numbers will likely grow, given the state of the economy.
"A lot of people, when diagnosed with cancer, are using up all of their life savings," Smith says. "One in five people surveyed actually said they had used up all of their life savings and many people, one in seven, said they went deeply into medical debt. We think no one should have to choose between saving their life and their life savings."
A University of Iowa report projects 6,300 Iowans will die from cancer this year, while 16,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed.