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Health Care: Surviving Cancer

Less than a week after Elizabeth Edwards' announcement that her breast cancer had returned, the White House tells reporters that Press Secretary Tony Snow, too, has suffered a recurrence.

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GOOD NEWS

In an “‘historic advance,’ Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, said yesterday that it would begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that did not confine their animals in cages and crates.”


STATE WATCH

MISSOURI: Opponents of embryonic stem cell research pass an override of last year’s referendum.

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco lawmakers approve a ban on plastic grocery bags to reduce city pollution.

MONTANA: State House committee passes legislation to fund new clinics offering health care to low-income residents.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: GSA administrator Lurita Doan to employees: “You are the wind beneath my wings.”

STREET PROPHETS: “Mormon support for war drops sharply.”

BLOG FOR CLEAN AIR: Endangered polar bears threaten businesses in all 50 states.


DAILY GRILL

“General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee.”
— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 3/27/07, on how safe Iraq is because of President Bush’s escalation

VERSUS

“I mean, in the hour since Sen. McCain’s said this, I’ve spoken to military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly the general travels in a humvee. There’s multiple humvees around it, heavily armed.”
— CNN’s Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, 3/27/07


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  March 28, 2007
Surviving Cancer
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Surviving Cancer

Less than a week after the emotional announcement by Elizabeth Edwards that her breast cancer had returned and spread to surrounding bones, the White House told reporters yesterday that Press Secretary Tony Snow, too, has suffered a recurrence of cancer and the disease has spread to his liver. Snow previously had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Just last week, Snow offered his heart-felt sympathies for Mrs. Edwards, who probably faces chemotherapy for the rest of her life. “As somebody who has been through this, Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people, and a good and positive one,” Snow said, noting her vigilance in checking up on her condition. Upon hearing of Snow’s recurrence, John and Elizabeth Edwards called him to express their support and concern. “I think we disagree on so many things across this country, and instead of starting with the things we disagree on, maybe it’s a useful dialogue to start with the things that we do agree on,” Elizabeth Edwards told The Progress Report this weekend at a health care forum in Las Vegas. “And health care, for example…is one of those things. We all agree that we all should have good health care and we want good health for everybody regardless of their political persuasion.” Our thoughts and prayers with Snow and Edwards, their respective families, and the more than 10 million Americans who live with cancer each day. “When VIPs get terribly sick, the hope is that their illness will inspire others to take the steps necessary to protect their own health.” But the health care system in the U.S. poses significant barriers for the sick to overcome in order to receive proper care.

ACCESS TO TREATMENT: Snow is ensured the best treatment, at a hospital he wished not to disclose. “Tony Snow is paid the salary that he’s paid, and he has health insurance,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “And I’m sure he’s taken care of that way.” Elizabeth Edwards said, “You know, is this a hardship for us? Yes, it’s yet another hurdle. But I’ve seen people who are in real desperate shape who don’t, first of all, have the wonderful support that I have, and have no place to turn.” Nearly 45 million Americans who lack health insurance would not be nearly as fortunate to have similar access to treatment as Edwards or Snow. The truth is, “if you come down with cancer, you had better have health insurance. Otherwise, prepare to go bankrupt or die. … Anyone who is middle class and uninsured is in big trouble.” Three out of every four families will help care for a family member with cancer. Middle-income families are oftentimes forced to sell their homes to purchase treatment, leaving them desperate and deep in debt. The costs of cancer treatment have become prohibitively high for many Americans. Even Wall Street analysts now acknowledge soaring cancer-drug prices are not sustainable. “Last month, Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, introduced a bill to make it easier for generic versions of biotech drugs to come to market after patents expire, aiming to lower prices by fostering competition.”

FOCUSING ON PREVENTION: Noting the importance of prevention, Tony Snow said last week, “Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people, and a good and positive one. She has been on top of diagnosis and follow-up. When you have cancer it’s very important to keep checking.” Cancer is generally more curable when detected early, “meaning those with good insurance and the means — not just money but the time and education — to develop a good doctor relationship are more likely to get that early testing.” About 70 percent of deaths and costs in the U.S. are attributable to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer – diseases that can be prevented or controlled. But most people neither know what treatment they need nor value prevention. As a nation, we dedicate only three percent of our health dollars on health promotion – but over 20 percent of costs to the last year of life. On top of that, “there are still significant gender and racial gaps in screening uptake” which add to the difficulties in detecting and treating cancer. As part of the overall effort to reform the health system, the Center for American Progress has proposed a Wellness Trust. The Wellness Trust would deliver prevention outside of the bounds of the health system and pool financing to create incentives for providers, employers, schools, and individuals to prioritize prevention. “Anyone who does not talk about [disease prevention] and put it front and center is going to be neglecting one of the most important issues not only of our culture…but clearly for our time,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).

FEDERAL FUND RESTRICTIONS: President Bush’s proposed fiscal ’08 budget includes a decline of 0.2 percent, or $9 million, in the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) budget, to $4.78 billion. Last year, Bush also proposed a cut of 0.8 percent ($39.5 million) in the NCI budget. USA Today noted at the time, “This would come a year after a $31 million cut in the NCI’s budget, and it would mark the first consecutive years of decreased funding since 1981 and ’82, the institute says.” NCI officials are now fretting over further financial constraints. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that “the 10 federally funded cancer cooperative groups, which enroll nearly half of the patients in the nation who are participating in cancer trials, have begun to shut down trials and stop studying certain cancers amid funding concerns. Robert L. Comis, president and chairman of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups, a nonprofit group comprising cancer centers, hospitals and patient- advocacy groups that work to increase participation in clinical trials, said 3,000 patient spots in clinical trials will be eliminated in 2007 at centers around the U.S.”

INSURANCE BARRIERS: “Dependable health insurance is an issue for everyone, but it is particularly important for cancer survivors.” Cancer patients “may face barriers in obtaining coverage such as refusal of a company to accept new applications, policy cancellations or reductions, high premiums, waived or excluded pre-existing conditions, and extended waiting periods.” This weekend at the New Leadership on Health Care presidential forum, presidential candidates gathered to discuss their ideas for fundamental reform of the health care system. Uniting around the need for universal coverage, many candidates emphasized the importance of expanding insurance coverage and ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) noted,  “There are a lot of people who think they have insurance except when they need it” because they are denied coverage at crucial moments. She put her emphasis instead on ending the “discrimination” exercised by insurance companies when they exclude or unenroll policyholders. “We could save money if we changed the incentive to require that preventative health care and wellness be covered and incentivized, and we could require that every insurance company had to insure everybody and no exclusions for preexisting conditions,” she said. Former Sen. John Edwards discussed a plan that goes even further, calling for a similar reform of insurance laws and also requiring “all American residents to get insurance” either through their employer or by purchasing it individually through employer-funded “Health Markets.”

Under the Radar

IRAQ — RETIRED GENERAL CONCLUDES IRAQ IS ‘IN DESPAIR’: Late yesterday, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey released a report based on a recent trip to Iraq that included meetings with Gen. David Petraeus and 16 other senior U.S. commanders. McCaffrey — who previously served in Vietnam and commanded a division in the first Iraq war — described the situation in Iraq as a “low grade civil war” that has “worsened to catastrophic levels.” Contradicting statements made by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) yesterday, McCaffrey found that “no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, report, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection.” The report, which was presented to White House officials late yesterday, stands in “sharp contrast” to his previous assessments which include a statement after a trip just last year calling the “progress” in Iraq “very encouraging.” As the Washington Post reports, McCaffrey found his “bottom line” in this most recent report to be that “the U.S. military is in ‘strategic peril.'” The retired general, who is opposed the President’s continuing escalation plan, called the insurgent militias “‘in some ways more capable of independent operations’ than the Iraqi army.” In concluding the report, he said the “vocal opposition” of Congress could “actually provide a helpful framework” for the U.S. government to help the Maliki administration “understand their diminishing options.” But he added that “we have very little time left.”

IRAQ — MILITARY ANALYSTS RESPOND TO McCAIN ESCALATION REMARK WITH ‘LAUGHTER DOWN THE LINE’: On Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told radio host Bill Bennett that President Bush’s escalation is working. “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today,” he said. Yesterday, when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked McCain why Americans still aren’t able to safely leave the Green Zone in Iraq, the senator replied that Blitzer was giving three-month-old talking points: “General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee,” McCain said. “I think you oughta catch up. You are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.” But according to CNN reporter Michael Ware, who has been in Iraq for four years, McCain is “way off base.” He stated, “To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.” Ware also rebutted McCain’s assertion that Petraeus travels in an unarmed humvee: “[I]n the hour since Sen. McCain’s said this, I’ve spoken to military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly the general travels in a humvee. There’s multiple humvees around it, heavily armed.” Watch the video.

SCIENCE — REPORT HIGHLIGHTS BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH:
The House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing this week on the Bush administration’s alleged efforts to stifle scientific research “that casts the White House or its policies in a bad light.” “Guiding the discussion will be a new report from the Government Accountability Project that details incidents of scientific suppression across several federal agencies. The document, to be released at the hearing Thursday, is a follow-up to a report GAP released last month…that examined reported Bush administration interference in climate science and included a survey of government climatologists.” Earlier hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee featured scientists who charged that the government officials, many of whom had no scientific background, rewrote and redacted statements in official documents that referred to global warming. GAP reports that the alleged interference further extends to “‘delaying, monitoring, screening, and denying interviews‘ between government scientists and media outlets, as well as delaying, denying or ‘inappropriate[ly] editing’ press releases conveying scientific findings to the public.” The Bush administration’s attempts to stifle research it disagrees with poses a potential legal battle. “In some cases, the policies and practices the group says were enacted to squelch damaging scientific information ‘constitute constitutional and statutory infringements of the federal climate science employees’ free speech and whistle-blower rights,'” the report states.


Think Fast

“The Army’s new acting surgeon general said Tuesday she is concerned about long-term morale because the military lacks money to hire enough nurses and mental health specialists to treat thousands of troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“The House on Tuesday approved a two-year extension [through 2010] of a program offering tax credits for construction of low-income housing in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

After environmental groups leaked the Interior Department’s secret plan to “gut” the Endangered Species Act yesterday, senators vowed to block the proposed changes through appropriations legislation.

Hundreds of Iraqis detained in the current security crackdown have been crammed into two prisons run by the Defense Ministry that were designed to hold only dozens of people.” 

“Federal and state lawmakers have launched a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment,” which “would subject legal claims of gender discrimination to the same strict scrutiny given by courts to allegations of racial discrimination.” The constitutional amendment was three states short of passage in 1982.

$100 million. The amount of the penalty the leading manufacturer of night vision gear will pay for sending classified materials overseas.

Shiite police and militants, “enraged by massive truck bombings,” went on a “revenge spree against Sunni residents” in the town of Tal-Afar, killing as many as 60 people.

And finally: Angelina Jolie’s father, actor Jon Voight, was yesterday spotted “putting in a good word for meticulous oral hygiene.” Waiting for a meeting in the Hart Senate office building, Voight engaged in a “five-minute dental-flossing session.” “He was really digging in there,” one witness noted. “Like some people pace and talk on their cell phones, he was pacing and flossing.”