1. Healthcare in jeopardy: The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that calls for the radical cutting of Medicaid funds to the poor, and, devastating cuts to provisions for the elderly and people with disabilities. The president and the Republicans celebrated these changes in the White House Rose Garden as the shadow of dire need fell across millions of people. No one knows, yet, just how many millions of people will be negatively affected or how many people with pre-existing conditions will lose their care, their doctors, and, eventually, their lives. The elderly, in and out of nursing homes, will lose vital options for care. Veterans will face even more obstacles. What is to be done?
2. The work of the Cancer Justice Network: Cincinnati is the cancer death leader of all of Ohio for minorities, people with disabilities, and the aged. Currently, the Cancer Justice Network is the only local program that educates this population on both the realities of cancer and the necessity for early screening and treatment. We visit with the people who are attending free dinners, or community health fairs, or educational meetings and invite them to get immediate care through taking people to health centers for exams to determine if they have cancer. Our program has "navigators," trained staff who are ready to accompany individuals and their families to doctors, nurses, hospitals, and screening centers. We are free because we are volunteers.
Most people we see are afraid of cancer and even more fearful of going to physicians and hearing the horrific words, "You have cancer." In the past, negative thoughts about costs have been used as a reason for not going. Or, transportation to and from health centers, hospitals, and doctors' offices has seemed too bewildering. And, once some brave people have visited a doctor, they have been treated as if they were sub-human and ignorant. People have said to us: "I'd rather die than be treated so badly again."
Our program seeks to rapidly change the access to health care by providing an ally for the person on the whole journey, from the dinner to the health center and, if necessary, to the hospital for treatments. We want to have everyone transported with confidence that they can master and afford the trips to the health care centers and, once there, understand what their health status and, if necessary, get treatment that is timely, compassionate, and successful.
3. Obamacare still exists: The new legislation does not replace or modify the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Yet. People can still get insurance that does not discriminate against them because they have a prior health condition like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. Our navigators can still take people for exams and treatments that are covered by Medicaid and Obamacare. We will continue our programs until there is a new law that prohibits people getting insurance. We will continue to visit dinners, health fairs, and educational settings and invite people to join us. We will find transportation that is easy, direct, and accessible for people wanting an exam and treatment. And, we will fight for the maintaining of every caring aspect of health insurance that assists people in fighting cancer.
4. Next Steps: We need to continue to march for justice in health care for everyone. Included in standing up for cancer justice is to also take our health seriously and not let our president and the Republicans decide that our population, our low income individuals and families, our people with disabilities, and our aged, are unworthy for full and rapid treatment. We have many allies in this struggle: doctors, hospitals, insurers, civil rights organizations, and the average American. Take cancer seriously and take action with the Cancer Justice Network. We are joining hands and we will resist this attempt to kill the poor and those most vulnerable in our population.
By Steve Sunderland
This article will appear in a forthcoming issue of Streetvibes, a newspaper of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.
Read about the latest progress we are making as a Cancer Justice Network.