American Cancer Society Issues Principles for Quality Health Insurance

June 6, 2007

WASHINGTON June 5, 2007 The American Cancer Society today issued four principles that define meaningful health insurance and highlight major problems in the health care system that are impeding progress against cancer and other major diseases. The four principles will guide the Society and its sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN), in efforts to improve access to quality care for those with cancer.

The principles, which were released at a Capitol Hill briefing today, state that health insurance should be

Adequate Access is timely and coverage offers the full range of evidence-based health care services, including prevention and early detection and supportive needs, including acute treatment with access to clinical trials, chronic disease management and palliative care.

Affordable Total costs are not excessive and are based on the patient’s ability to pay.

Available Coverage is available regardless of health status or claims history, and it is renewable and continuous.

Administratively simple Benefits, financial liability, billing procedures and processes for filing claims are easy to understand, and consumers are able to compare plans when making choices about health insurance.

“Forty-six million Americans lack health insurance today, and millions of others have coverage that is inadequate when facing cancer or another major health crisis,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN. “Merely having insurance may not be enough during a health crisis you may be insured, but you may not be covered. Everyone should be guaranteed coverage for the screenings and treatments they need to prevent and fight cancer and other lifethreatening diseases.”

The Society will release two groundbreaking new studies next week that will call urgent attention to the need for access to quality health care. The studies will conclude that the uninsured and people with Medicaid are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cases of cancer than those with private insurance. The studies find that availability and type of health insurance strongly predict disease severity in patients with breast cancer and various types of the oral cancer in the United States.

As part of their ongoing efforts to influence the health care reform debate, the Society and ACS CAN will apply the four principles announced today to federal and state health insurance reform proposals to determine whether the proposals would improve health care for the uninsured and underinsured. The Society also will be running an extensive print and television advertising campaign this fall that highlights the stories of actual cancer patients who are uninsured and underinsured. As the 2008 elections near, ACS CAN will be communicating with presidential candidates about what qualifies as meaningful health insurance and the need to make access to care a top national priority.

The briefing also featured Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, who shared research findings on the experiences of families affected by cancer. Blendon shared data showing that 30 percent of families faced with cancer say they have problems paying their medical bills and 25 percent have spent most or all of their savings on treatment costs.

Doreen Cacioppo, a cancer patient from Amityville, New York, shared her personal story at the briefing. A stage IV breast cancer patient who receives weekly chemotherapy treatments, Cacioppo has insurance coverage that covers only 30 out-patient visits per year. Having exceeded her maximum number of visits, Cacioppo owes $5,000 for each additional treatment and has accrued medical bills in excess of $100,000.

“We must ensure that primary care, prevention, early detection and quality care are available to all,” said Richard C. Wender, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, who spoke at today’s briefing. “By addressing the health care crisis in a way that makes sense for cancer patients, survivors, their caregivers and the general public, we will provide a standard by which proposals to reform the health care system can be judged."

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

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