Tuesday, May 30, 2017

If You Or Someone You Love Has Cancer, Trump Is Not Your President

During his first overseas diplomatic trip last week, President Donald Trump paid a brief visit to a young cancer patient, and his supporters went ballistic because it wasn't widely reported by the legitimate press. Perhaps that’s because despite this PR stunt, Trump’s actions have been overtly hostile to cancer patients. One visit with a patient doesn't change that.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the generic, noble-sounding healthcare bill he champions, will, if passed in anything resembling its current state, have a profoundly negative impact on cancer patients.

Trump has been compared to Richard Nixon, but that comparison is an insult to Richard Nixon. After all, Nixon declared war on cancer. And he meant it. Trump, however, has declared war on cancer patients. And he evidently means it, too.

As a three-time, 20-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I'm nauseated, angered and saddened by Trump's pathetic efforts to look compassionate with his brief visit to a cancer patient's hospital room. I would ask the family of the child he visited to read the bill Trump is trying to get passed. 

But, kind readers, don't take my word for it. Every respectable national cancer and health organization condemns the preposterous, vicious, immoral healthcare bill Trump wants to see become law. Everyone who has actually read the bill knows it rewards the rich and throws pretty much the rest of us under the bus.

Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for example, one of the finest cancer hospitals in the world, is evidently none-too pleased with Trump's handiwork and recently announced that it will not host its annual gala at the president’s Mar-a-Lago property.

Trump's healthcare bill is nothing more than an $800 billion tax break for America's wealthiest citizens. It does great harm to cancer patients and many others with pre-existing conditions. It also denies basic services to and wildly increases premiums for seniors, children, the disabled and those suffering from prescription drug addiction.

Trump also wants to severely slash funding for medical research. He's called for a 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as deep cuts to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These cuts would obscenely slow and in many cases stall cancer research and the development of new cancer treatments.

Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, had this to say about Trump's plans:

"America should not go backward to the time when our fellow citizens with pre-existing health conditions faced high costs for limited coverage, if they were able to obtain coverage at all. The AMA urges congressional leaders and the Administration to pursue a bipartisan dialogue on alternative policies that provide patients with access and coverage to high quality care and preserve the safety net for vulnerable populations."

In a joint statement, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, JDRF, March of Dimes, National Organization for Rare Disorders, National MS Society, and The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, said:

"In March, our patient advocacy organizations collectively urged Congress to ensure that any changes made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provide affordable, accessible and adequate coverage and do not result in a loss of coverage for any Americans. The AHCA would do the opposite, causing at least 24 million Americans to lose health insurance, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The bill would profoundly reduce coverage for millions of Americans — including many low-income and disabled individuals who rely on Medicaid — and increase out-of-pocket costs for the sickest and oldest among us. We are alarmed by recent harmful changes to the AHCA, including provisions that will weaken key consumer protections."

Rick Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association:

"Our top concern is what this change could mean for older and sicker patients, including those with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer patients and those with chronic conditions. For these reasons, along with our previously stated concerns about the AHCA, we cannot support the bill.

"The amendment proposed this week would dramatically worsen the bill. The changes included put consumer protections at greater risk by allowing states to waive the essential health benefit standards, which could leave patients without access to critical health services and increase out-of-pocket spending. This could allow plans to set premium prices based on individual risk for some consumers, which could significantly raise costs for those with pre-existing conditions.

"There is nothing moderate about the AHCA. Rather, it is an extreme attack on access and coverage for millions of Americans."

Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president:

"Changes under consideration that would allow states to waive important consumer protections ― allowing insurance companies to once again charge Americans with pre-existing conditions more because they’ve had cancer, diabetes or heart disease ― would make a bad bill even worse. This would be devastating for the 25 million Americans 50-64 who have a deniable pre-existing condition."

Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States:

"It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill. Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted. Lastly, we must point out that this bill has been crafted largely behind closed doors, with almost no input from providers of health care."

Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

"Pediatricians have been voicing our opposition to the AHCA since it was initially introduced, and the current version makes an already bad bill even worse for children and families. This bill would dismantle the Medicaid program by capping its funding and eliminating the Medicaid expansion, and a new amendment adds on even more harmful policies, such as allowing insurance companies to refuse to cover those with pre-existing conditions. In short, the bill hinders states’ and families’ ability to provide and access care. These are not improvements to our health care system; they are setbacks that would have real consequences for children.

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association:

"The American Health Care Act is bad policy. The measure would force millions to lose insurance, cut key public health investments and gut health protections for Americans. Now, in a bid to win votes, they’ve taken a bad bill and made it worse.

American Academy of Family Physicians:

"Despite recent activities and amendments, the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) remains a highly flawed proposal that will destabilize our health care system, cause significant loss of coverage, and allow for the discrimination against patients based on their gender, age, and health status. For these reasons, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) continues to oppose the AHCA and encourages the House of Representatives to reject this failed policy.

"By removing critical consumer protections that collectively ensure that the millions of individuals with pre-existing conditions can continue to purchase affordable health care coverage, the AHCA would result in higher premiums and higher deductibles for millions. Additionally, the negative impact of the AHCA is not limited to the individual insurance market. These policies also may impact the more than 130 million people with employer-sponsored insurance."

Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association:

"AHCA would cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years, dramatically increase premiums on seniors, restrict millions of women from access to health care, weaken the sustainability of Medicare, and repeal income-based subsidies that have made it possible for millions of families to buy health insurance."

Bruce Siegel, CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals:

"The AHCA is a deeply flawed bill that would leave more people without health insurance than before the Affordable Care Act, weaken programs for our most vulnerable people, and leave states, local governments, and taxpayers holding the bag. This amendment might win votes, but it likely won’t change the outcome: 24 million more Americans without health insurance."

Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians:

"On behalf of the American College of Physicians (ACP), I write to urge the House of Representatives to vote no on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) because it will bring great harm to patients, many of whom are treated by our members, notwithstanding the amendment that reportedly will be offered today on funding for high risk pools

"There is nothing moderate about the AHCA. Rather, it is an extreme attack on access and coverage for millions of Americans, and especially, older, sicker, and poorer patients who are most in need of help. Please vote for patients and against this extreme bill. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation."

Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California:

"The bill could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance. The discrimination, whether on price or just on the ability to access insurance at all on preexisting conditions, is unconscionable. As a country, we are better than that."

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