Castellani Op-Ed in The Hill: Health insurance model must evolve

ICYMI: Castellani Op-Ed in The Hill: Health insurance model must evolve

05.31.14 | By Robert Zirkelbach

In case you missed it, The Hill featured an op-ed by PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani, “Health insurance model must evolve,” to coincide with the start of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’ (ASCO) 50th anniversary conference.  Castellani’s op-ed highlights the role innovative medicines have played in improving cancer survival rates over the past 50 years, the challenges patients face with regards to high out-of-pocket costs imposed by insurance plans, and the need to reshape our insurance system into one that ensures patient access and promotes a strong future for innovation.  Check it out here:

Health insurance model must evolve

This week, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the group will observe how a half-century of innovation has enabled doctors and their patients to dramatically improve cancer survival rates since its first meeting.

For example, in 1964, one in every 300 patients died of cancer.  Today, that rate has been cut nearly in half.

In 1964, only 34 percent of cancer patients were surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.  Today, 66 percent are. 

The reason for such progress? In large part, new medicines.

Yet despite the revolution in treating many forms of cancer over the past 50 years, patients are still stuck with an insurance model from the 1960s that discourages the use of innovative medicines to treat and cure disease while encouraging more costly hospitalizations and physician services.

This needs to change.

Today, commercially insured patients are typically required to pay about 20 percent of the cost of their medicines compared to 4 to 7 percent for hospital care.

Many patients battling cancer and other devastating diseases are required to pay up to 40 percent out of pocket for their medicines. 

This is unfair to patients and it overlooks the inherent value that medicines provide to society and the U.S. health care system. 

The societal value of medicines is evident: longer lives means more time with family, friends, work, or however you choose. The economic value is also evident, as health breakthroughs are estimated to add about three trillion dollars, per year, to national wealth.

Those values come together: 20 years ago, HIV/AIDS was considered a death sentence. Some said that the cost of the disease was unsustainable and would break the health system. But thanks to new treatments the opposite happened, and HIV/AIDS is now considered a chronic, manageable disease with manageable costs.

The same can hold true for cancer – and many other diseases.

Read the full op-ed on The Hill’s website.



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