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Senate health care repeal puts cancer patients' coverage at risk

In the early morning hours of Dec. 2, the U.S. Senate passed a tax bill that essentially repeals the nation's health care law with no replacement plan.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), eliminating the insurance requirement from current law would lead to 13 million more Americans being uninsured by 2027, and would increase premiums by 10 percent annually.

The Senate bill does, however, improve upon two other provisions threatened in the House proposal that are important to reducing the cancer burden. The Senate draft reduces, but does not eliminate, the orphan drug tax credit, and leaves in place and makes more generous the medical expense deduction.

A statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

"Repealing the individual mandate without a replacement leaves cancer patients, survivors, and all those with serious illnesses at risk of being priced out of the individual health insurance market. Americans who need quality health care will likely pay more and have fewer choices as some young and healthy people forgo insurance, and health insurers charge more or leave the market entirely.

"Changes in the law that adversely affect millions of Americans' health care should be carefully considered, not included as a one-off provision to help pay for an otherwise unrelated tax bill. The stakes are too high and the risks to patients too great.

"While we have been supportive of the two bipartisan market stabilization bills authored by Senators Alexander and Murray and Senators Collins and Nelson, we are concerned that enactment of those bills would not be sufficient to restore the market if the mandate is repealed in the tax bill.  As the CBO indicated this week, those bills will not mitigate the impact on the 13 million people projected to lose insurance if this change is made in the law.

"On behalf of all those affected by cancer, we urge lawmakers to put patients first and reject the repeal of the individual mandate and protect the medical expense deduction and orphan drug tax credit in their final legislation."

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