Upholding the ACA: Is it About the Politicians or the People?

This week’s blog is by Kim Thiboldeaux, CEO of the Cancer Support Community. This blog also appears today in the Huffington Post, and you can read more of Kim’s Huffington Post blogs here.

Kim-ThiboldeauxAs I have been reading and watching the media coverage on the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the argument that patients in the 34 states that defaulted to federal exchange should not be entitled to receive subsidies based on 4 words in the law – “established by the state” – I have been surprised and disappointed that so many stories in the press have focused on the 2016 presidential election and not on the 6.4 million Americans who were potentially at risk of losing their subsidies and therefore, their recently acquired and much-needed coverage. Shouldn’t we be talking about the millions of individuals and families who now have affordable health care – or even health care at all – for the first time in their lives? Or talking about patients – like those with a serious illness like cancer – who can no longer be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition? Why aren’t we interviewing patients whose coverage and access to care will now be preserved instead of interviewing presidential candidates to gain some insight into their 2016 platform?

I have to wonder if any of the politicians who are calling the ACA “an injustice” or “bad for Americans” have ever been without health care themselves or have recently had to support a family on minimum wage or have been diagnosed with a serious condition while they had no health care coverage at all. There is a reason that the majority of personal bankruptcies in this country are related to health care costs.

I am often amazed when I hear people say “I don’t want to pay for other people’s health care because of Obamacare.” Don’t people realize that scenario was more prevalent pre-Obamacare when people were forced to use emergency rooms – the most expensive care – as their primary care? In addition, before the ACA, we were not investing widely in preventative care and wellness- especially for more underserved populations – which are powerful tools in bringing down the cost of health care. And while I have never had children in the public school system in this country, I still pay taxes for public schools because we believe an education is a basic human right. So why not health care? Isn’t that one of our most basic human rights? I also hear many people calling the ACA “socialized medicine” when it is truly nothing more than health insurance reform allowing people to PAY for their own coverage at a rate commensurate with their income. In the past, we saw people who earn $25,000 or $30,000 a year being asked to pay $700 or $800 a month for insurance as an individual purchaser – clearly an impossibility.

At the Cancer Support Community, we believe that all Americans should have access to high quality, comprehensive affordable care that includes medical care, as well as social, emotional and psychological care. We believe that Supreme Court decision is a victory and another step forward towards viewing health care as a basic human right, as they do in other wealthy, developed nations.

To date, 10.2 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and 8.7 million receive subsidies. In the words of the Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion in the case, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Those words could not be more true. And now that the spirit and intention of the law has been affirmed by the highest court, it is our hope that we can leave behind the rancor and hostility surrounding this debate and return to the business of caring for patients – caring for the 1.6 million people who will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone – and caring for the 12 million + people impacted by cancer who are in active treatment, are post treatment survivors dealing with long term and lingering side effects, or who may be at the end of their lives. Let’s make sure, as a society, that they have the care and support they need. Let’s be sure they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. And, let’s demand that health care be considered a basic human right and not a luxury in the wealthiest, most privileged nation in the world.

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What you need to know about the King v. Burwell decision

PolicyLogoThe Cancer Support Community applauds the decision issued by the Supreme Court today, which ensures that millions of Americans will not lose access to their health care coverage. In its decision, the court ruled against the challengers in King v. Burwell, a landmark case that would have had a devastating impact on millions of people who receive health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

King v. Burwell called into question a small phrase in the ACA which says that subsidies will be made available to people buying health insurance on the state-established exchanges, or marketplaces. The plaintiffs in the case argued that this phrase should not apply to people purchasing insurance on the federal exchange–which is currently used by 34 states and more than 7.5 million people.

Had the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, millions of people who receive their health insurance through the federal exchange would have lost access to their subsidies. This would have resulted in a drastic increase in health insurance cost for millions of Americans.

As a result of the ACA, there has been an increase in the number of insured Americans. Without much-needed subsidies, it was expected that many people would have lost their insurance, impacting not just their own coverage, but also the costs for all people in the system.

The Cancer Support Community believes that all people should have access to high quality, affordable, comprehensive cancer care that includes medical care as well as social and emotional support.

If you would like to receive updates on important policy news or to become an advocate on Capitol Hill and in your state and local legislatures, join our advocacy network today.

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Make this a #CSCEmpower-ing Summer

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How much of a difference can someone make in a month?

That’s the question we’re asking you this July. For one month, CSC will be displaying a banner in a window at Rockefeller Plaza, New York to inform people of the free services CSC offers to people affected by cancer.

The banner reads, “Everyone knows someone touched by cancer. I am a…” to show how no matter where we live or who we are, there is one experience that is universal: we’ve all known someone affected by cancer that has needed support, and we’ve all wanted to help them.

Now, you have the power to make an actual difference in your loved ones’ lives. The more people know about the resources CSC provides, the more we can help ease the physical and emotional toll that cancer takes.

That is why for the month of July, we’re inviting you to upload a photo to CSC’s Facebook or Tweet a picture of yourself and your connection to cancer by filling in the blank: I am a ________, along with the hashtag #CSCEmpower. Because when everyone knows someone affected by cancer, we are all empowered to show our loved ones they are not alone.

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It could be something as simple as “I am a daughter, and I support my mom. #CSCEmpower” or “I am a friend of Theresa, my hero. #CSCEmpower.” Not only does this show how much you care, it tells them about an organization which offers hundreds of services to those affected by cancer.

We believe in the power of paying it forward, so much so that as an added bonus, anyone who tweets about the CSC window qualifies for a chance to win a CSC swag bag! We want to reward the altruist in you, so anyone who shares their connection to cancer with the hashtag #CSCEmpower is entered for a chance to win.

So how much of a difference can someone make in a month? All the difference in the world!

Posted in Cancer Advocacy, Cancer Support | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What you need to know when you attend your first support group

sledge.posterToday’s guest blog is from Renata Sledge, MSW, LCSW. Renata is the Program Director for the Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis.

“I walked into group knowing I needed to feel not so alone, but not sure that group was what I wanted.  The first person I saw asked me how I was…I knew she really wanted to know and so I told her.”  -CSC Group Participant

Fiesta Saturday 1Stepping into a group for the first time is both brave and humble.  As a new group member, you are coming to hold the feelings and experiences of your group members, while also letting them hold your feelings and story.  It’s normal to feel anxiety about what to expect, but people are often surprised at how comfortable they feel even if they never saw themselves as a “support group” kind of person. Hearing the stories of others who get it from the inside out can be a validating and reassuring experience.

It is not uncommon to take a little a bit of time to warm up to group.  We recommend group members attend at least three sessions in order to get a feel for the “energy” of the group.  Support groups work best when members are open about their concerns, even the concern that attending group does not appear to be helping– but you have a right to be cautious while you get your bearings, and it’s important that you feel safe before you share information and feelings. People who are willing to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings tend to receive a greater benefit from group than those who do not. The support group can be a place where you do not have to pretend, hold back or feel you have to protect others from your fears and anxieties. Participate actively in your group but at your own pace. Warming up to new people can take time. If simply getting there and listening works for you, then start with that and get comfortable.

CSC Beading Program HandsSupport groups through the Cancer Support Community’s Affiliate Network are facilitated by a licensed, clinical, professional therapist.  The Cancer Support Community group facilitators will provide structure and a safe, compassionate environment in which group members can connect with one another in productive and meaningful ways.  The facilitator will share in the discussions as appropriate and include some of their personal views, feelings and concerns.  However, each individual is considered the expert on his or her cancer experience.  You know about your life and what to do with it more than anyone else; the facilitator and your fellow group members are there to help you look at the issues, ask the hard questions and make the difficult decisions—not to make them for you.

Even when looking for support, support groups are not for everyone. If after participating in a support group for three visits you decide the group is not the right place to get your support, there are a variety of other programs for people affected by cancer to connect with others at CSC’s and elsewhere.  Whether in a group, education program, pot-luck, or book club, it is important to find a person who asks “how are you” and is ready to listen.

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Big Boys Don’t Cry Over Skinned Knees

Father and SonJune is National Men’s Health Month, and it’s a great time to raise awareness for men’s self-care and support. The leading causes of death for men in America are heart disease and cancer. Lung cancer and skin cancer are the leading causes of cancer related deaths in America. Often because of the way men are raised, it can be easy to miss opportunities to prevent or diagnose these cancers due to societal pressure on men to endure pain and hardship rather than ask for help.

American women tend to outlive their male peers. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, and many of them are indicative of how differently men and women are raised. Men are taught to cope with pain, to endure hardships and “get over it” rather than “showing weakness” by seeking help. They are told that big boys don’t cry over skinned knees. The effect this has on men’s health can be seen in their adult lives.

Men are 24% less likely to visit a doctor than women, according to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the face of men’s health. Men experiencing symptoms of cancer are consequently less likely to have it checked out by a doctor. This makes regular screenings for cancer, such as colonoscopies and prostate exams, all the more important.

So what does this mean for men and their loved ones who care for their health? It means a conscientious effort to get regular screenings, watching for potential symptoms, commitment to seeing a doctor regularly and continual social and emotional support.

  • Remind your loved ones to exercise self-care, such as watching for cancer symptoms and checking himself for testicular cancer. A video tutorial for the latter can be found here
  • Watch for skin discolorations your loved one might dismiss or not see; this can be a symptom of skin cancer
  • Sun or secondhand smoke exposure is something someone can feel pressured to “man up” and deal with, but regular sunscreen application and limiting exposure to intense sunlight or secondhand smoke prevents skin and lung cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer is another one of the most common cancers for men. Everyone over 50 should get screened regularly for colorectal cancer.
  • To help encourage family members to get checkups, have the entire family get their annual checkups around the same time of year.
  • Reach out to give him love and emotional support. Men often face a social stigma attached to seeking emotional support themselves.

While these may seem like simple tips, they can be easily forgotten or dismissed the same way a child may not want to bandage his skinned knee. Make sure you and your loved ones take these steps to ensure longer and healthier lives.

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