Confused about your healthcare plan? Dr. Richard Wender, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, answers important questions about your coverageā€¦or lack there of.

Q: Where can patients without insurance or with too little insurance go for help?

RW: There are often limited options. We know, for example, that one out of five American families who have insurance use up all or most of their savings fighting cancer. Patients and providers can appeal the insurance company's decision and sometimes get a decision reversed. Also, the American Cancer Society, in a joint effort with the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, provides health insurance information to cancer patients from certain states who call the American Cancer Society's toll-free hotline (800-ACS-2345). The program currently serves 28 states, with plans to expand the program.

Q: How do I know if I have "good" insurance?

RW: If you have insurance, you should ask whether it is adequate to cover a serious medical condition like cancer. For example:

  • Does it pay for screenings, like a mammogram or colonoscopy?
  • Are there limits on the number of treatments you can receive? For example, would it cover a full treatment of chemotherapy? The number of doctor visits?
  • What would your total costs be? Is there an annual or lifetime amount of money that the insurance company will pay for your care? Is there a maximum out-of-pocket limit? You probably have a deductible, but you also may have co-pays, and you may have to pay more for prescription drugs.
And a good plan should make this kind of information be reasonably simple to obtain. A good plan shouldn't require you to read lots of small print in legalese to know your benefits.

Q: Do you think universal access to healthcare is possible in the United States?

RW: The United States spends far more per person on healthcare than any other country in the world, yet we rank near the bottom in virtually every measure of good health. Our nation's healthcare system is inefficient and wasteful. Our healthcare delivery system should focus effectively on prevention and better quality of care. The American Cancer Society wants to spur the public debate about how to achieve these goals.

For more information about the American Cancer Society's healthcare campaign, visit


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