I have written my column for over ten years and have always been trying to inform my readers so they can make sound choices as to their health, happiness and lives. A high percentage of my readers are women and boomers or more mature senior citizens. This is one of the reasons I follow all information regarding healthcare reform avidly. The more mature in our population are the very people most needing of care, most prone to devastating illness such as cancer, and most at risk in loosing out when these proposed reforms are enacted.
An article in the Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2009 written by Myrna Ulfik, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, considered an incurable cancer, in 2000. Her words are eloquent and deeply felt when she speaks about the reasons for still being alive today. She speaks for many of us.
“I am still here because my care was managed by doctors -- not a government agency. My doctors do what the bureaucracy can’t: They see me as a human being.” Patient-as-person will be a lost concept under the new health-care plan, where treatments will be based not upon individual patient needs, but upon what’s best for everyone. So cancer drugs for seniors might take second place.
In order to finance health-care reform, Democrats in Congress have proposed cutting $500 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years. Yet in his press conference last Wednesday, President Barrack Obama denied that Medicare benefits would be cut. In spite of the president’s assurances, there is every sign that this plan will be financed by deep cuts to Medicare, which, like the public option, will limit payments for specialists, radiology scans, and cutting-edge cancer drugs.
Despite its warts, our system works. Carelessly tinkering with it will have a world-wide penalty -- the stifling of new drug development. The number of Americans who have cancer exceeds 10 million. It’s time for cancer patients and their families to remind those on Capitol Hill that healthcare reform is a matter of life and death for us.