Health care system ill-equipped to handle cancer survivors

Okay. We’re doing what was thought impossible a few decades ago–curing cancer (at least some kinds). Now we’re finding that we aren’t well prepared to help survivors live well afterwards. The myriad of issues that exist for those who go back to the world after having survived cancer was addressed at a recent Institute of Medicine conference.

Legal questions about insurance issues (insurance companies are notoriously uninterested in taking on anyone with a known serious disease or condition–past or present) are among the most challenging. How will the costs of followup care be assigned? Insurance companies won’t want to bear. Doctors can’t afford to give their services away. Patients and their families–who increasingly, as the cost of health insurance steadily climbs, may have gone into debt already from the treatments themselves–will hardly be in a position to support high medical bills over the long term.

Conference attendees discussed training physicians to provide survivors with a carefully laid out “care plan” (including ways to reduce recurrence and ways to get help with the many other problems they will face). I wonder if the oft-mentioned, much-maligned subject of a national health care system came up at all.