Lung Cancer Alliance and Legacy® Object to Stigmatization of Smokers by Charging Higher Health Care Premiums Pursuant to Provisions of the Affordable Care Act
Same Stigmatization Blocks Access to Low Dose CT Screening for Lung Cancer
Washington, DC [February 20, 2013]—Lung Cancer Alliance and Legacy join other public health advocates in opposing a provision in the Affordable Care Act that permits health insurance companies to charge premiums to smokers that are 50% higher than non-smokers.
“What is most upsetting about the increased premiums from a public health perspective is that we know that most smokers today want to quit, but the battle against this monstrous addiction is fierce,” stated Cheryl Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy. “Adding insult to injury, evidence-based screenings for those with high lung cancer risk and current smokers are not yet covered under preventative health services by health care providers and insurance companies.”
“Demonizing smokers has been made politically acceptable,” stated Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance. “Tragically, we have seen the impact of this demonization beyond increased health care premium costs. It has meant that our organization’s call for inclusion of scientifically validated low dose CT screening for lung cancer as an Essential Health Benefit has often fallen on deaf ears.”
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the United States. Over 160,000 people die each year from lung cancer—more than one quarter of all cancer deaths. In 2010, the National Cancer Institute’s National Lung Screening Trial (NLST)—one of the largest clinical trials in NCI history—scientifically validated the power of low dose CT screening in detecting lung cancer at an early stage in a high risk population. Such early detection would reduce mortality from lung cancer even more than mammography does for breast cancer.
Nearly two years after the NCI results were published on January 31, 2012, Lung Cancer Alliance wrote to US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius urging her to include low dose CT screening for certain high risk populations in the package of essential health benefits adopted by federal and state health exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act. To date, Lung Cancer Alliance has not received a response. To read the letter, visit http://bit.ly/XpOni1.
“No one deserves to die from lung cancer,” stated Fenton Ambrose. “But by failing to embrace the demonstrated benefits of low dose CT screening for lung cancer, thousands are at risk of needless death,” she said. “While it is gratifying that American Cancer Society has recently championed CT scans as well as joining others in objecting to the demonization of smokers within the context of higher health care premiums, the wider public health community should raise their voices in demanding that low dose CT screening be covered as well. To do anything less is a huge lost opportunity to save lives.”
“Smokers should not be penalized for their addiction, nor should their health concerns be ignored. Instead, we join our partners in reiterating the tremendous need for more public awareness and education about LDCT screenings, about lung cancer, and broadly about tobacco use—the number-one cause of preventable death in the United States,” Healton added.
About Lung Cancer Alliance
Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA), www.lungcanceralliance.org, is committed to ending injustice and saving lives through an alliance of advocacy, education, and support. LCA provides live, professional support, referral and information services for patients, their loved ones and those at risk for lung cancer; advocates for multiple millions in public health dollars for lung cancer research; and conducts national awareness campaigns.
Follow Lung Cancer Alliance on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lungcanceralliance. Follow us on Twitter: @LCAorg.
Legacy helps people live longer, healthier lives by building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Legacy’s proven-effective and nationally recognized public education programs include truth®. the national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. To learn more about Legacy’s life-saving programs, visit www.LegacyForHealth.org.
Follow us on Twitter @legacyforhealth and Facebook www.Facebook.com/Legacy.