Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cancer survivors were at the mercy of the health care system, often forced to pay exorbitant premiums or simply denied coverage altogether. Today, America’s 16 million cancer survivors benefit from the ACA’s patient protections that are critical to providing them with quality, affordable, and accessible health care coverage. NCCS is actively engaged in advocating to ensure this unprecedented access for cancer patients and providers continues.

AHCA 2.0 Is Released (Worse for Patients than the Original Bill)

As we previously reported, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – the effort to replace the Affordable Care Act – was not even brought to a vote in the House of Representatives before the spring Congressional recess. Members of Congress confirm that advocates who opposed the AHCA were key to the failure of the original bill. Earlier this week, the full text of an amendment to the AHCA was published and is now being considered by House Republicans. As we reported, the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis showed that the original AHCA would be devastating to cancer patients.

However, last night the bill was revived and the MacArthur amendment makes the AHCA even worse for cancer survivors and others with serious illnesses, as it allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of key consumer protections, including essential health benefits. Essential health benefits include services such as hospital visits, prescription drugs, ambulatory services, preventative services, and much more.

Margot Singer-Katz of the New York Times reported:

The ability to opt out of the benefit requirements could substantially reduce the value of insurance on the market. A patient with cancer might, for example, still be allowed to buy a plan, but it wouldn’t do her much good if that plan was not required to cover chemotherapy drugs.

The waivers would also allow insurers to charge people based on their age and health status. Republicans have time and again promised the American public that they would protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. While the bill includes language that would protect people with pre-existing conditions, the protection is a false promise. Without the requirement for insurers to provide a standard set of benefits and by allowing insurers to charge higher premiums based on health status, the “protections” for pre-existing conditions are misleading. A cancer patient might be offered a health insurance plan, but it could be a plan without the benefits the survivor needs and at a price that is astronomical.

To make matters worse, with the proposed amendment there is no limit to how much an insurer can charge older Americans. Cancer disproportionately affects older individuals, so these provisions pile on top of each other to harm those who need access to care the most. The AHCA also relies heavily on high-risk pools for states that choose the waiver, but there are no requirements for eligibility, premiums, or benefits. As a result, there is no guarantee people who are sick could access or afford a high-risk pool.

For cancer survivors, this bill is completely unacceptable, and it is critical that our community reaches out to Members of Congress to let them know that we deserve better and that we will not be fooled by empty promises of “protections.” Cancer patients’ lives depend on affordable access to services like prescription drugs, treatments, and doctor and hospital visits.

Please contact your Members of Congress today and share this message:

For tools and resources on how to contact your Members, download our policy tip sheet or contact Lindsay Houff, Public Policy Manager at lhouff@canceradvocacy.org.

Learn more about the ACA, including tips for contacting your lawmakers »