Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - Page 16 News List

Cancer Society launches ads for insurance

By Mike Stobbe  /  AP , ATLANTA

Others groups have efforts, too.

The American Medical Association recently announced a "Voice for the Uninsured" campaign with advertising in early primary states.

Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals are organizing a series of hour-long presidential forums. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, an 80-organization group formed earlier this year, is placing reform-focused billboards in and around airports and this month used college cheerleaders to voice chronic disease messages outside a presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire.

Some experts predict health reform will be a more potent issue in 2008 than any time since 1992, when it helped carry Bill Clinton to the White House.

Large increases in insurance costs in this decade have caused employers and others to become more interested in systemwide reform, said Ken Thorpe, an Emory University health policy professor.

"Many big businesses have come to the realization they can't solve this problem on their own," he said.

At the cancer society's call center in Austin, Texas, a team of 14 operators have been assigned to take calls from people who are uninsured or underinsured. They form the core of a Health Insurance Assistance Service, which tries to connect people with coverage programs.

It was through the assistance service that the cancer society found the star of one of its new commercials - Raina Bass, 26, a legal assistant in central Missouri.

She survived ovarian cancer in her teens and became a wife and mother. But in 2005, she woke up with a swollen throat one summer morning that turned out to be thyroid cancer.

Both she and her husband had health insurance through their jobs, but it did not cover all her medical bills. Meanwhile, bill collection agencies were calling regularly.

"I should be shouting and jumping that I beat cancer twice," she said in an interview, but instead often found herself crying about debt and job constraints.

Bass was scheduled to appear at a press conference yesterday in Washington for the unveiling of the cancer society campaign.

"I am so glad I've been given the opportunity to finally speak out about this," she said.

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