By Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C
ACCC Capitol Hill Day 2017 happens to coincide with national Social Work Month, which the National Association of Social Workers is marking with theme Social Workers Stand Up. As an oncology social worker, this year I’m putting on my patient advocate’s hat, standing up, and going to Capitol Hill to share with legislators the stories of how my patients are being impacting by worry and uncertainty about how changes to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid program may affect their insurance coverage and access to care.
My home state of Maine has the distinction of having the oldest population in the country per capita and Knox County, where I live and work, has the oldest population in the state. Many of my patients who are on Medicare also have MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid program) as their secondary insurance. The current proposed changes to how the federal government supports states with Medicaid funding will have a tremendous impact on my patients.
Besides the elderly population that I need to advocate for, the proposed cuts and changes in payment will have an impact on my younger patients who become disabled with their cancer diagnosis and depend on Medicaid to cover the cost of their cancer treatments. As a patient advocate, I will be standing up for these patients as well.
My advocacy skills also are needed to bring the stories of how cancer impacts parents, small business owners, and working adults with a cancer diagnosis, who for the first time were able to afford health insurance under the ACA and now face uncertainty about whether they will have coverage or be able to continue to afford the cost of coverage.
Last but not least, I work in a rural community hospital whose doors are always open and that will treat patients whether or not they have insurance coverage. I need to advocate for my hospital so that we can keep our doors open.
Capitol Hill Day, March 29, will bring together ACCC members representing cancer programs from across the country. Together we will be standing up for our patients, for access to quality care close to home, and for our cancer programs.
Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C, is oncology social worker at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, and a past president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC).