House Passage of Health Care Reform Legislation a Victory for People With Cancer

November 7, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 7, 2009 – In an historic vote, the U.S. House of Representatives tonight passed legislation that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) believes has the potential to take the fight against cancer in this country to a new level.  ACS CAN, working to advance the mission of the American Cancer Society, announced its support of the House legislation Thursday and will continue to advocate for a final bill that works for families affected by cancer.

“This vote brings the country one step closer to enacting comprehensive reform that advances our mission to reduce suffering and death related to cancer,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of ACS CAN. “Lawmakers have put patients before politics and voted to transform our nation’s health care system in a way that will eliminate barriers to lifesaving care.”

If enacted, the House bill would provide immediate and long-term improvements in the health care system for cancer patients and their families. The bill would refocus the system to emphasize prevention, end the practice of denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, limit the cost burden on families by providing care that covers more and costs less and emphasize patients’ quality of life.

“This is our best chance in decades to see real reform that dramatically improves the broken health care system,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN. “We need to keep the momentum going and enact health care reform this year so that people with life-threatening diseases such as cancer can get the care they need at a cost they can afford.”

The bill makes significant progress in providing adequate, affordable coverage to the uninsured and the underinsured by expanding access to Medicaid for those earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, providing subsidies for the purchase of insurance to people earning up to 400 percent of poverty, reducing or eliminating cost sharing for cancer screenings and implementing insurance market reforms that eliminate annual and lifetime benefit caps and limit patient out-of-pocket expenses.

The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN believe more than 60 percent of all cancer deaths could be avoided through more effective use of existing scientific knowledge. The House bill proposes a significant investment in cancer prevention and early detection by requiring coverage for cancer screenings including mammography, colonoscopy and Pap tests, as well as for tobacco cessation programs in both public and private plans at little or no cost to patients. The bill also calls for an investment of $34 billion over five years in a new Public Health Investment Fund for community health centers, primary care training and prevention and wellness research.

ACS CAN has not weighed in on the financing of any health care reform proposal except to support an increase in the federal tobacco tax as a way to help pay for reform and save lives. Therefore, ACS CAN takes no position on the revenue provisions included in the House bill.

“Cancer patients know too well the gaps that exist in the broken health care system,” said Robert E. Youle, a cancer survivor and volunteer chair of ACS CAN’s Board of Directors. “Health care reform that works for families affected by cancer will benefit almost anyone who needs to access quality health care.”

A recent survey by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that the American Cancer Society is the most trusted among all the interest groups involved in the health care reform debate. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said they trust the Society to recommend the right thing for the country when it comes to health care reform.

“ACS CAN encourages the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass comparable legislation that will address the needs of the cancer community,” Seffrin said.  “It is critical to keep the momentum going so meaningful health reform can be enacted yet this year.”

ACS CAN volunteers across the country have been strongly urging lawmakers to pass the bill, sending nearly 10,000 communications to congressional offices this weekend alone emphasizing the need for meaningful health care reform.  Volunteers have made more than 75,000 calls into congressional offices since June and nearly 2,000 calls a day are expected in coming weeks in support of reform that works for families affected by cancer.

For more information about ACS CAN’s efforts in support of health care reform, visit

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit


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