HELP Committee Markup Highlights Critical Need for Renewed Emphasis on Prevention in Health Care System

Access to Early Detection Measures for All Americans Can Save Lives

WASHINGTON, DC, -- June 23, 2009 -- Families affected by cancer are optimistic that emphasis on prevention as a major theme in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee markup of comprehensive health care reform legislation is indicative of progress toward transforming our broken “sick care” system into one that focuses on keeping people healthy.

Approximately 70 percent of both deaths and health care costs in the United States are attributable to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease diseases that in many cases can be prevented or managed.  Yet only four percent of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in 2007 was invested in prevention.

“We know that 60 percent of cancer deaths can be prevented, but our health care system drastically underemphasizes and underinvests in preventive services and programs,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).  “Lack of access to quality health care is forcing too many cancer patients and their loved ones to delay or forego cancer screenings that could detect the disease at earlier, more treatable and less expensive stages and in some cases prevent cancer altogether.”

ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, is the leading voice of patients in the health care reform debate, having worked with a broad cross-section of stakeholders for the past several years to build momentum for reform nationwide.

“Cancer patients know too well the gaps that exist in the broken health care system,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN.  “Health care reform that works for families affected by cancer will benefit almost anyone who needs to access quality health care.”

ACS CAN supports the establishment of a Prevention and Public Health Investment Fund as part of comprehensive reform to help ensure there is a sustained investment in prevention and public health programs that have been underfunded for decades.

ACS CAN believes prevention must be equitable, accessible and affordable for all Americans, specifically as it relates to preventive services such as cancer screenings, tobacco cessation programs and programs to improve nutrition and physical activity.  Additionally, integration of existing government prevention entities into a single, cohesive process to identify national priorities for prevention services based on scientific evidence will ensure that we can optimize delivery of proven effective programs and services.

Any health care reform must also provide all Americans with insurance coverage that is available, adequate, affordable, and administratively simple. Consistent with this principle, legislation must: eliminate any use of health status in eligibility and premium rating, limit the cost burden on families and establish a process to determine a minimum level of benefits based on science.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit

Steven Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711

Alissa Havens
Phone: (202) 661-5772


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