Affordable Care Act Key Topic of Third Annual Advocacy for Cancer Patients Program A grieving mother’s dream for a healthier world led to a very important and informative discussion this month in Albuquerque. Medical and legal experts, including the state’s attorney general and the chair of the board of the American Medical Association, gathered on Oct. 11 to participate and present at the Third Annual Advocacy for Cancer Patients program at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque. The program was held in support of the Shannon J. Shaw Memorial Cancer Fund. Another part of the fundraising effort, the Shannon J. Shaw Memorial Team Roping competition, is taking place Oct. 26 and 27 in Carlsbad. Jeff and Evy Diamond’s son, Shannon J. Shaw, died from malignant melanoma on August 31, 2009. A website providing more information about the Shannon J. Shaw Memorial Cancer Fund has been set up at www.listentoyourmom.org.
As he was dying, Shannon Shaw told his children to listen to their mother – as he wished he’d listen to his mother’s advice about getting a suspicious mole checked out. The 2011 seminar broadly addressed cancer issues, while 2012’s seminar addressed the Affordable Care Act. This year’s seminar, which provided continuing education credits for members of New Mexico’s medical and legal communities, brought in national experts to discuss topics associated with both cancer and the Affordable Care Act. The day’s presenters included Pamelya Herndon, executive director of the Southwest Women’s Law Center, who discussed the individual's rights under the Affordable Care Act. “It is illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel an individual’s health insurance just because they are sick,” she noted, adding - “State insurance oversight departments will hold insurance companies accountable for rate increases.” New Mexico Attorney General Gary King discussed the role his office will play in assisting the public with the Affordable Health Care Act. For example, the attorney general’s office will be looking for hidden fees and attempts at fraud. “I think, by and large, for most human endeavors that most people try to do the right thing,” he said, but noted that a small percentage of people may try to abuse the system or exploit others. “We’re very concerned about some entities that want you to pay up front to try to help you understand the system.” King pointed out that the state’s insurance exchange oversight group is subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act. The focus, he said, needs to remain on education. “We consider this a working process,” he noted. “I really hope we can help.” Attorney Nathan Kottkamp, founder of National Healthcare Decision Day, discussed the importance of planning a living will and discussing end-of-life plans with family. “Sit down at the dinner table tonight,” he advised. “It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it works.” Such planning is an essential part of meeting the nation’s health care needs, Kottkamp said. Families without end-of-life plans face quality of life issues and agonize over whether or not they made the right choices. “Let’s see if we can beat the drum loud enough across the country so that people will finally start to dance,” he said. Dr. Wadhih Arap, Deputy Director of the UNM Cancer Center, delivered the seminar’s welcome. Dr. Elba Saavedra, Assistant Professor for Research at UNM’s College of Education, provided instruction about patient navigation programs. Dr. Barbara McAneny, chair-elect of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association, spoke about techniques for treating cancer patients at home. Attorney Jeff Diamond led a panel discussion about medical insurance that included Dr. Nandini Kuehn, Jason Sandel and Phil Mims. Jane Batson, with ENMU-Roswell, spoke about meeting shortages of health care personnel. Finally, employment attorney Rita Siegel talked about protecting employee rights during a battle with cancer.