The Hematologist

September-October 2017, Volume 14, Issue 5

Staying Vigilant on Health Care Reform

Kenneth C. Anderson, MD Kraft Family Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

Published on: August 18, 2017

Health care reform is a political issue with some very real day-to-day consequences for patients and care-givers alike. Despite the fog of uncertainty that often clouds this discussion, it’s important to keep our patients foremost in our minds as the inspiration for all that we do. ASH, by supporting and collaborating with basic and clinical researchers and caregivers, has been central to the bench-to-bedside development of novel therapies for hematologic disorders and malignancies. Once these treatments become available, ASH works tirelessly to further ensure that patients have access to and can benefit from them. However, without a health care system in place that can support physicians, patients, and their families, our work and advocacy can only reach so far.

To this end, ASH has expressed several core values that guide our evaluation of any health care reform bill. The Society opposes measures that discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions or that impose lifetime benefit limits, and stands against efforts to shift Medicaid funding to block grant or per capita programs. ASH urges that any reform bill include protections that ensure that consumers understand their coverage options. In keeping with a great deal of the Society’s advocacy on Capitol Hill, some of which I have highlighted in other columns, ASH encourages efforts to combat high drug prices by supporting legislation that provides for insurance parity between patient-administered and intravenous chemotherapy, curtails patient out-of-pocket expenses, and limits patient costs for drugs placed into specialty insurance tiers. We furthermore recognize the importance of coverage for ambulatory, emergency, hospital, and laboratory services in properly and effectively diagnosing and treating patients with hematologic malignancies and chronic hematologic diseases throughout all stages of care.

Furthermore, while ASH seeks thoughtful consideration in tackling the opioid epidemic, we must avoid unintended consequences that unnecessarily punish patients with chronic diseases, such as sickle cell disease and cancer. Finally, ASH opposes any move that would waive individual states’ compliance with the above protections.

I am proud of the role ASH continues to play in this debate, highlighting the need to preserve these values and encouraging members to discuss these issues with their patients. It is our personal and professional responsibility to our patients to advocate for a system that is fair and that provides everyone access to quality health care.

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