Cancer Ads To Focus On Insurance Reform

Like Fannie Geiger, right, an estimated 57,000 uninsured Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, faced with the prospect that they will not get better because they cannot afford treatment. CBS

When Fannie Geiger's sore throat wouldn't heal last year, she had a feeling it was a sign of something serious.

Fannie says learning the news was hard. She had stage four throat cancer, the most advanced. Even worse, her free county health insurance did not cover treatment.

"I've worked all my life and now, when I need help, it didn't seem to be there," she tells

Like Fannie, an estimated 57,000 uninsured Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, faced with the prospect that they will not get better because they cannot afford treatment.

That's why for the first time, the American Cancer Society is jumping into the political arena, spending its entire $15 million advertising budget on ads to push health care reform to the top of the agenda in the presidential race.

"We are now seeing data that more than race or ethnicity or socio-economic status, it is whether someone has insurance or not that determines whether they are going to survive their cancer disease," says Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society.

It's part of the reason? The uninsured are less likely to have access to regular doctor visits, and preventive care.

By the time an uninsured cancer patient reaches the hospital, it's often by way of an emergency room where they cannot be denied care. As CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports, many times their cancer is so advanced, the cost of treatment can top $200,000 and the chances of survival are much lower.

If Fannie's cancer had been caught earlier, at stage one instead of stage four, the cost to treat her would have dropped by about $50,000.

Fannie is lucky -- not only was she treated for free at The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, but today her cancer is in remission. The problem is she's still uninsured.

Her only options are finding a job with benefits or "not getting sick," Fannie says. "That's the only solution I can think of."

Like millions of other Americans, she may be left to manage that on her own.
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