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Senate Bill Threatens Access the Quality Care for Patients with Diabetes

May 9, 2006

The bill if passed could eliminate coverage for diabetes supplies. AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) and the American Diabetes Association are working together to defeat a proposal expected to be voted on in the US Senate in early May that could make health care coverage more expensive for sicker or older workers and eliminate coverage protections for important health screenings and treatments for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening or chronic illnesses.

These leading health and consumer organizations previewed a joint national advertising effort that will help educate voters about negative effects of the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2006 (S. 1955). Sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) the bill could make it harder for workers age 50 and older to get a job that provides health insurance, among other things.


In addition, health advocates worry about the long-term effects this bill will have on citizens nationwide, as it would preempt state guarantees of coverage for health benefits such as mammography, cancer screenings, emergency care, mental health services, and diabetes supplies and education.

The bill would allow any insurer to sell health policies that bypass state consumer protections requiring coverage for cancer screenings and treatments, diabetes supplies and education, well-child care and immunizations, maternity care, emergency services, and mental health care.

By doing so, Congress would partly undercut the states’ traditional role of regulating the business of insurance, such as setting requirements for what benefits should be covered and how insurance should be priced. The bill would let insurance companies sell health policies that do not meet state requirements, such as fairness in pricing for those who are older and those who are sicker. AARP CEO Bill Novelli explains, "While it is a laudable goal to make health insurance more accessible and affordable for small businesses, the ‘Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act’ does so by giving these businesses an incentive to avoid hiring or retaining sicker or older workers."

"Ensuring access to cancer screenings and treatments is critical in the nation’s effort to reduce cancer deaths," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO for the American Cancer Society. "This bill would do more harm than good by undermining the critical work our volunteers and state legislators have done to ensure coverage for lifesaving mammograms, off-label prescription drugs and other benefits that help detect and treat cancer."

American Diabetes Association CEO Lynn Nicholas said, "Forty-six states currently require state-regulated insurers to cover diabetes supplies, medication and treatment. S.1955, however, would allow small business health plans to bypass these vital coverage regulations. This would be devastating to millions of Americans with diabetes to whom this assurance of coverage has been a lifeline, not a luxury."

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Americans Less Healthy than English: Middle-aged to older U.S. residents have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer than their English counterparts, according to an article in the May 3 issue of JAMA.