Revamp of National Cancer Act Introduced in Senate

Published July 30, 2009

Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have introduced legislation they say will bring the 1971 National Cancer Act into the twenty-first century.

Senate Bill 717, the 21st Century Cancer ALERT (Access to Life-Saving Early Detection, Research and Treatment) Act, would allocate funding to early detection research, encourage the use of biomarker tests, require states to pay for tobacco cessation medication for Medicare patients, and require insurance providers to cover routine care for cancer patients participating in clinical trials.

The bill is expected to pass this fall, but not everyone is convinced it is the answer to improving the fight against cancer.

“As with nearly all of what Kennedy proposes in the field of health care, he is attempting to move the legal framework in the wrong direction,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation. “More regulation, even if it appears to be geared towards preventing cancer, sounds like a great idea, but it only makes the federal government more fully in control of the health care industry.”

Gessing says legislators should seek solutions that encourage healthy lifestyles and individual ownership of health care.

“Some of these ideas certainly have merit, particularly as they pertain to prevention, but Kennedy should be advocating removal of the government-imposed barriers between doctors and their patients that reduce the incentives for preventative medicine and wellness,” said Gessing. “Instead, Kennedy continues reinforcing the current policy of third-party-payers handling payment for medical services.

“Using government to micromanage preventative care is another step in the wrong direction,” Gessing concluded.

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.

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21st Century Cancer ALERT Act: