With healthcare reform, Congress can't forget what works

With healthcare reform, Congress can't forget what works
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No one would disagree that we are at a pivotal moment as we consider ways of improving health care delivery in this country. As policymakers debate the best way forward — we remain concerned that the most important question is not being asked — which is, “Are we making changes that benefit people — or the system?” And, if it is not for the benefit of the people, then we have a serious problem.

We recognize that even though important protections to accessing high quality affordable health care have been advancing since the passage of the Affordable Care Act — the system is far from perfect.

But a corrective approach that simply “rips the law up from its roots” would only foment confusion and disruption while causing renewed fears of care and coverage denials that drove us to making change in the first place, particularly for those most vulnerable. This is about health care, not fear, right?

Healthcare cannot break down into partisan politics. It is complicated enough. It impacts everyone regardless of politics. Which is why modifications must be done carefully and leverage protections that people need and care about most.

We see it every day in our work to end lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, which will claim an estimated 160,000 lives this year alone. Fortunately, due to key health care protections currently in place through the Affordable Care Act, coupled with accelerated scientific breakthroughs, we have momentum on our side as we turn the tide in the fight against lung cancer.

Consider that coverage today cannot exclude those with pre-existing conditions. For those dealing with a diagnosis, access to quality care without grave financial and emotional harm gives these patients a fighting chance against this disease.

For those at risk for developing lung cancer, access to lung cancer screening as a life-saving preventive service, now covered under the Affordable Care Act, is key to catching this disease early at it’s most treatable, curable stage. This type of preventive measure must remain in any system realignment.

And with the scientific advancements and introduction of a new generation of personalized therapies that are increasing survival rates and improving quality of life for those impacted by lung cancer, healthcare providers now have the ability to better tailor their treatment regimens to an individual and manage them based on effectiveness and how well they are tolerated by a specific patient.

In the last three years alone, there have been 21 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval decisions relevant to lung cancer and the release of 11 new treatments. These breakthroughs are further shaping both research and individualized care.

System reform cannot hinder the doctor-patient relationship nor stymie research that is meaningful to patients — who are people with different needs, characteristics and preferences.

While people may disagree on the best way to reform the healthcare system, there should be no doubt that the main goal should be to ensure that all Americans have the ability to obtain high-quality care that meets their individual needs.

As the leaders of the two leading patient advocacy organizations devoted solely to the lung cancer community, these concerns are top of mind as Congress debates health care delivery.

Let’s do health-care reform the right way, which is for the people, by the people and not the system.

Laurie Fenton Ambrose is the President & CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance. Bonnie J. Addario is the founder and chair of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.