May 15, 2000
Helping Cancer Patients and the Terminally Ill is a Moral Imperative
Compassion Requires Allowing People To Use Their Resources to Fight These Diseases
Last weekend President Clinton issued an appeal to lay aside partisan differences in order that we may address critical health care related issues. I hope the President will take his own advice and work to pass legislation that I recently introduced. However, in all honesty, I expect that we will once again see this issue dragged down by those who would rather score political points than address very real problems.
"When workers are stricken with a grave illness, they need the love and support of their family and friends as well as the best health care they can get. As a doctor who has specialized in women's health issues for decades, and as a member of Congress, I know how truly critical it is that cancer patients as well as those who suffer from terminal illnesses have the resources available to them to combat these illnesses.
"That is why I have introduced sweeping legislation aimed at assisting the terminally ill, and those stricken with cancer, to meet the financial burdens of health care costs resulting from their illnesses. The Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act (HR 4265), would exempt all persons diagnosed with terminal illness, or any form of cancer, from the employee portion of payroll taxes for as long as they continue to suffer from the illness or have significant costs resulting therefrom.
"This bill would allow such individuals to keep their resources for those purposes without adversely affecting their ability to collect benefits. Rather than forcing people who are in such dire situations to continue paying taxes for a retirement they may never live to see, we need to free up resources for them now, without any penalty accruing to them if they can beat these terrible diseases. I have spoken with patients who have suffered from these illnesses, which put such a terrible strain on them and their loved ones. Even when they have health care coverage (and many do not), they still incur all kinds of costs ranging from transportation to and from care centers and certain prescription drugs which may not be fully covered, to hiring sitters to watch their children while they receive treatment. The list is nearly endless. In the legislation I introduced, if the disease goes into remission and all related costs are paid, the employee would again resume paying the payroll tax. This is a conservative program designed to reduce the tax burden of those fighting these dreaded illnesses. We need to offer compassion to those who suffer, but we also owe it to them to stop taking away the resources which can help people beat breast cancer, AIDS or other terrible health problems.
"I am hopeful that people who are truly interested in improving health care for the terminally ill and others with cancer will join me in supporting and advancing this legislation. Rather than focusing on making political points or representing the needs of special interests, this is a piece of common sense health care legislation that would serve the interests of those who are suffering.
"When I first announced this legislation to constituents a few weeks back I was so pleased when one person immediately responded with a note to my office saying how he was a cancer survivor and thought that this was a plan that would "greatly assist" those suffering from such diseases.
"In the weeks and months ahead I will be promoting this legislation with my constituents, here in the House of Representatives and elsewhere. If you live outside of the 14th District of Texas and want to know how your representative stands on this important legislation you should call or write to his or her Washington office.