The healthcare system can be difficult to navigate. There is not a lot of support for patients and their families. As a society, we need to assist patients and their families in negotiating the health care system, especially among underserved populations.
Legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) that will make it easier for Americans to access health care cleared a key hurdle by passing the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.
The legislation would require NCI, HRSA and IHS to award grants to provide individuals from populations affected by health disparities prevention, early detection, treatment, and follow-up care services for cancer and chronic diseases. Wonderful! This is exactly what is needed. As many of you know, 45 million of Americans do not have health insurance. This may encourage those people to neglect to get preventative healthcare that is needed. The disparity in healthcare in this country is absolutely real. Absolutely unacceptable.
This legislation will put in place a program that will work to ensure that everyone in this country regardless of their race, ethnicity, language, or income will have access to prevention screening and treatment. They will have an advocate in their corner, helping them navigate through today's complicated health care system. Patient navigators help patients make appointments for physician visits, complete insurance paperwork, and provide culturally sensitive services tailored to the community's specific needs.
Here are two parts of the bill that seem absolutely outstanding:
The bill ensures year-round outreach to target communities and funds culturally and linguistically competent patient navigators to conduct outreach, build relationships, and educate the public, while encouraging prevention screenings and follow-up treatment.
It also ensures that navigators are available to help patients make their way through the health care system --whether it's translating technical medical terminology, making sense of their insurance, making appointments for referral screenings, following-up to make sure the patient keeps that appointment, or even accompanying a patient to a referral appointment.
Focusing on prevention. What a sane idea. It is so sane and so important that the Republicans probably won't support it. But at least it passed through an initial committee.
We must not forget about the needs of those facing chronic illness today - particularly the needs of low-income and medically underserved individuals, who are disproportionately impacted by chronic illnesses due to their inability for preventative treatment.
The "Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act of 2005" is very valuable legislation. You can help by writing or calling your congressman and asking for their support of the bill.