I often try and steer a little clear of the most controversial of issues effecting those of us with prostate cancer, but despite personal opinions, the recent health care reform passed in the United States requires discussion. The reform legislation, besides representing the most sweeping social policy change in the U.S. in decades will have a significant impact on all people fighting any type of cancer, including prostate cancer.

As with most legislation there is no easy way to read just a few paragraphs and understand what it says, this reform legislation is no different. So, what does this legislation mean for us cancer survivors?

• It means people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses who decide to help move treatment options forward by enrolling in clinical trials won’t also be burdened with what can become crushing out-of-pocket costs for routine care. Currently, many insurance policies specifically exclude routine care for clinical trial participants, even if they would normally pay for this care when the survivor is not participating in a trial. Insurance companies will now have to pay for the routine medical care of the trial participants.

• It means that our children and grandchildren won’t be denied medical insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions. In 2014, this will also expand to adults.

• It means insurance companies can’t cancel your coverage if you become ill and require expensive therapies or treatments. Isn’t this the very reason we purchase coverage. It also means that insurance companies will not be able to impose annual of lifetime caps on your medical coverage.

• It means the potentially significant burden, the cost of drugs in the Medicare “doughnut hole,” will drop.

• It means prevention care will be available to Medicare beneficiaries without co-payments or deductibles beginning in 2010.

• And it means people under age 26, our children and grandchildren, can stay on their parents’ insurance plans while they complete their studies or work in entry level jobs that don’t offer coverage.

    Now, My Political Stuff

Unfortunately, many people were against making these changes in health care policy and fought very hard against the changes for various reasons. Some of the arguments against reform were sound, but the benefits for many of us are very palatable.

Many of our legislators who supported reform, voted for them at the risk receiving the brunt of their constituent’s ire. Members of Congress bravely stepped up to the task to protect all Americans when they fall ill despite the significant controversy and angry rhetoric our country has witnessed.

I believe that history will prove them to be great humanitarians.

Joel T Nowak, MA, MSW