10 Oct Washington Examiner: Medicare cuts threaten access to lifesaving cancer treatments
“A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. It triggers a series of decisions a patient and their family must make, often in rapid succession. A key determination is where to get and how to pay for care.
As CEO and Director of the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, or UNMCCC, I see my patients and colleagues struggle with these choices every day. It is particularly challenging when your patient lacks the security of insurance. Slightly more than half of our patients are racial and ethnic minorities, more than half are from medically underserved rural counties and American Indian Nations with high rates of poverty and cancer health disparities, and 13 percent are uninsured. As a National Cancer Institute Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we work to make sure all patients have access to care and clinical trials no matter their ability to pay.
Aracely was one of those patients. Diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer in Gallup, at the southeastern border of the Navajo Nation, Aracely was turned away from a private healthcare provider who deemed her insurance inadequate. But she was determined to survive. Aracely and her family drove back and forth to us in Albuquerque — a three-hour drive away — for months to receive lifesaving cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Today, Aracely is cancer-free. But our mission, to assure that all New Mexicans have access to state-of-the-art care and benefit from advances in cancer research, regardless of their health insurance and socioeconomic status, is in serious jeopardy.
For more than 25 years, the federal 340B drug pricing program has been critical in our ability to care for disadvantaged patients. This congressionally-mandated program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to sell medications at discounted prices to qualified healthcare providers, partially shielding them from skyrocketing drug prices while strengthening their ability to develop comprehensive clinical programs for underserved populations. The 340B program has led to better health outcomes at lower costs for vulnerable patients and the safety-net hospitals that treat them and doesn’t cost the American taxpayer a dollar. Preserving the 340B drug pricing program is vital to ensuring that affordable lifesaving drugs are within reach for all patients.”