By Peg O’Connell
So much of the healthcare news we hear and read these days is COVID related, that we can lose sight of the other diseases and conditions that impact the lives and health of North Carolinians. At the top of that list is cancer.
Although we have made great strides in both the prevention and treatment of many types of cancers, cancer is still the leading cause of death in our state and the American Cancer Society estimates that we will see nearly 64,000 new cases and more than 20,000 deaths in our state in 2021. Struggling with cancer is tough enough on the best days, I can’t imagine what it must be like without health insurance in the middle of a pandemic.
Now, I know that our General Assembly can’t legislate a cure for cancer, although all of us wish they could and I bet that would be a bill with 170 co-sponsors. But there is one thing that our legislature can do that would make a world of difference for many cancer patients—CLOSE THE COVERAGE GAP!
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that closing the coverage gap for those without health insurance can reduce mortality for those diagnosed with breast, colorectal or lung cancer. This is a big deal.
My friend and colleague, John Tramontin, the State Lead Ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, puts it very clearly, “An individual’s ability to access care is one of the biggest contributing factors behind the higher cancer mortality rates we see in communities of color and rural areas of our state.
“Preserving and improving access to health insurance coverage is essential for these communities and countless lower-income North Carolinians, especially those who are newly uninsured. In the midst of one of the greatest public health crises in our nation’s history, we need to close the gap in order to protect American families from big medical bills and ensure millions are able to get the care they need.”
Hope as we might, we can’t cure all cancers, yet. But we can do something that will help all cancer patients and that is find a solution to close the state’s health insurance coverage gap. And a bill to do that should have 170 cosponsors on it.