Progress in the fight against cancer and other debilitating chronic diseases will be grinding to a halt unless the country fixes its health care system.  So states the American Cancer Society as it announces plans to devote its entire $15 million dollar advertising budget for this year to the consequences of inadequate health care.

Although the organization usually devotes its advertising dollars to prevention and early detection campaigns, the group admits that cancer rates are not dropping as rapidly as hoped.  They add that recent research show linkage of lack of health insurance to delays in detecting malignant cancers.  John Seffrin, CEO of the ACS stated that they had concluded that advances in prevention and research would have little lasting impact if Americans were unable to afford cancer screening and treatment.

The campaign has been initiated to facilitate faster progress toward reduction goals of cancer incidence and death rates, 25% and 50% respectively, over 25 years ending in 2015.  Current trends indicate that actual reductions are projected to fall far short, perhaps as much as half, of these goals.
While cancer death rates continue to decline, studies have shown that earlier diagnosed malignancies would enable the rates to fall faster.  And insurance status frequently determines whether a person’s cancer is diagnosed early or later.

In a somewhat related theme, the AFL-CIO union movement has announced that they will initiate their own campaign for health care reform on Labor Day.  The goals presented are noteworthy and include cost control, comprehensive high quality care, prevention, and the right to choose one’s own physician.  The campaign also calls for a strong government role to curb corporate greed and a lowering of employer costs while asking them to pay their fair share.  The AFL-CIO unions are mobilizing a 1-million-member health care Emergency Mobilization Team, which will work with a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, to move the nation toward a reformation of the health care system.

It is unclear at this time the extent of reform the AFL-CIO will endorse and the ACS has stated its intent to remain apolitical in recommending specifics with respect to reform. But Mr. Seffrin of the ACS states, “The ultimate control of cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific issue”.

It seems that almost everyone in America knows that health care reform is long overdue and some call for mandatory health insurance.  But universal insurance coverage is not good enough. Private plans that compete by offering various levels of premium amount are rapidly increasing the numbers of the underinsured, individuals who will face financial hardship or bankruptcy, if they should develop cancer or other major chronic disease.  Don McCanne of the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) states as follows; “Good public policy, such as a comprehensive national health insurance program, saves lives.  Bad public policy, such as encouraging underinsurance in the private market, kills”.

Let the discussion begin!