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Letter: Protect coverage for state’s most vulnerable cancer patients

By Sharon Erpestad, Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Wilder More than 31,000 people in Minnesota will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Many of these individuals are receiving health care coverage through the state's Me...

By Sharon Erpestad, Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Wilder

More than 31,000 people in Minnesota will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Many of these individuals are receiving health care coverage through the state’s Medicaid program. For them, this program will be their lifeline.

Currently, legislation being considered in the Minnesota legislature could put many of these lives at risk. The bill would impose a work or community engagement requirement as a condition of eligibility for Medicaid that could result in cancer patients, survivors and many other individuals managing serious, chronic conditions being denied access to timely, appropriate and life-saving health care and treatments.

I stood beside both my parents as they died of cancer. I know firsthand that battling cancer is often sickening and time consuming. Cancer patients in active treatment are often forced to cut back on hours or step away from work altogether due to their treatment and side effects. In fact, between 40-85 percent of them have to stop working. Their inability to complete the work or community engagement requirements could mean that they lose their coverage - putting their life on the line.

What’s more, I wonder what would happen to folks receiving treatment who are laid off temporarily from their jobs. That is a common practice in many industries. Would those employees have to look for new work when they expect to be called back? There are too many uncertainties in that scenario.

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I want to thank my representative, Rod Hamilton, for voting against this bill when it appeared before his committee, and encourage his colleagues to do the same as it moves to a floor vote. Don’t make it harder for our state’s most vulnerable residents, by kicking them off Medicaid, when they need care the most. Oppose work requirements in Minnesota’s Medicaid program.

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