Published by Lilo H. Stainton on NJ Spotlight.

As Trump administration’s attacks on Affordable Care Act take a toll, legislators put up ramparts to try to defend the law in Garden State

The Murphy administration and Democrats in the Legislature are doing what they can to shore up and protect the federal Affordable Care Act in New Jersey, as policies implemented by the Trump White House — and continued threats of repeal — are starting to take a toll on the landmark law.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week that state regulators would take a more active role in reviewing some ACA plans and has committed more state funding to expand coverage and continue outreach for the program, ordering state departments to actively promote enrollment soon after he took office in January.

He is also expected to sign legislation to strengthen the individual and small-business insurance market, including a bill that would make New Jersey the second state in the nation to implement its own individual mandate for health insurance — with a resultant tax penalty for not doing so.

And on Thursday the state Assembly advanced a Democratic-sponsored measure to require hospital staff to play a more active role in connecting patients with insurance. While many facilities already work to enroll uninsured patients with Medicaid, if they qualify, the legislation would also require employees to help people sign up through the ACA’s marketplace, which sells discounted commercial policies to working poor residents who don’t have coverage through their jobs.

“A primary goal of the Murphy Administration is to ensure that every New Jerseyan has access to affordable health insurance and that all our residents are able to see a doctor when they are sick. New Jersey is committed to increasing enrollment to ensure as many individuals are covered by health insurance as possible. My administration also believes it is critical that the health insurance offered in the state contains all the protections required under New Jersey law and the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy told the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in a May 11 letter announcing the state’s intention to take control of some aspects of marketplace management.

800,000 more NJ residents insured since 2014

The ACA, or Obamacare, has helped more than 800,000 additional Garden State residents get insurance since it took effect in 2014; 500,000 through the expansion of Medicaid, or FamilyCare, and another 300,000 thanks to marketplace policies. As a result, the uninsured rate has dropped from 13.2 percent to 8.7 percent, the lowest in decades. But that still leaves hundreds of thousands of Garden State residents without coverage, including 70,000 children, according to research by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

In addition, new national studies suggest that some of the Obamacare gains have started to backslide. A study released earlier this month by the Commonwealth Fund, a left-leaning policy group, found that some 4 million working-age people have lost coverage since 2016 and the uninsured rate among lower-income adults has increased by more than five points in two years, with more than one in four lacking coverage as of 2018.

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Commonwealth said the dip is largely a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken the law by cutting outreach funding by 90 percent, repealing the federal tax penalty for no coverage (starting in 2019), and allowing insurance companies to sell less robust policies. General confusion over the law’s status also contributes to these declines, researchers said.Pending regulatory changes are likely to continue or even exacerbate this trend, research by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School suggests. An analysis, published in April by the State Health & Value Strategies project, noted that the Trump administration will allow the current essential health-benefit requirements to be changed — allowing insurance companies to offer less expensive, lower-quality policies, easing restrictions on rate increases and earnings caps, and making it easier for public officials to deny coverage to those who can’t easily document their income level.

Tweaks large and small

Murphy is hoping that, with small and larger policy tweaks on the state level, New Jersey can protect the gains it has made through the ACA and prevent any regression. The governor’s decision to have the state Department of Banking and Insurance play a larger role in reviewing ACA marketplace plans is one way to protect benefit standards in New Jersey, advocates noted. While this change does not make New Jersey’s a state-run exchange, like programs in Massachusetts and New York — which have greater flexibility with the enrollment process and other elements — they said it does help the state guard against further federal attacks.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute — who has worked for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurance provider, and at DOBI — said that Murphy’s order does not involve a major shift for insurance companies or regulators, who have been doing this type of work for decades, but it fits well with his larger efforts to protect the law.

“The Governor’s decision makes sense,” Schwimmer said. “With the pending creation of the state-based individual mandate and reinsurance program, this is a logical move.”

The Assembly bill (A377), which dates back several years, is another attempt to embrace the ACA and build on its benefits in New Jersey. Sponsored by Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), the Democratic leader, and Angelica Jimenez (D-Hudson), with Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. (D-Burlington), the health committee chair, the measure would require trained hospital employees to interview an uninsured patient prior to discharge to determine their insurance status. If the patient is incapacitated, the employee would work with a family member.

If needed, the hospital employee would be required to help the patient or family with the steps needed to enroll in the ACA marketplace, or begin the sign-up process for Medicaid, if they qualify. If the visit does not coincide with the annual marketplace enrollment period, the hospital worker must provide the information for the patient’s use at a later date.

A Senate version of the bill awaits action.

Dr. Pauline Chen will be the keynote speaker of our Conversation of Your Life (COYL) Breakfast on June 12. Dr. Chen, author of Final Exam, is a powerful speaker, writer and advocate for patients at the end of life.

 Through your work as a transplant surgeon and experience with terminally ill patients, you came to understand that physicians often consider a patient’s death a sign of personal failure. How did you deal with that paradox in your life?

The answer is that I did not deal with it for close to a decade. That is precisely the issue and what made writing this book so difficult — and so liberating. It’s hard not to go through school and medical internship and training and take care of dying patients without feeling the pressure to depersonalize care. Just about every doctor goes into medicine to help people. They want to do the right thing. Although end-of-life care has improved dramatically since I wrote the book, there is still a lot of pressure on doctors to see more patients in less time. So forces still make it difficult for physicians to have meaningful and important conversations with patients. That’s why your initiative, Conversation of Your Life, COYL, (supported by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey) is so important.

What was your motivation for writing this book?

During my training I was too busy to write. When I finished I was drawn to writing and took writing classes to control my obsession. Ideas were just bursting out of me. I was writing fiction, but they were thinly veiled stories of grief. Not grief in the classic sense — grief over what I had become and the way I was taking care of my patients. I was not allowing myself to fully grieve for my patients who died. When that became clear to me I started writing what I really wanted to write: Stories of end-of-life care and the changes in myself over time.

The Quality Institute’s COYL program promotes community dialogue about advance directives and patients’ end-of-life wishes. It’s now in eight counties and will soon expand to six more. From a surgeon’s perspective, how do you see the value of promoting these conversations outside the medical world?

It’s hugely beneficial … for many, many reasons. Providers don’t always have the time to have these conversations because of the pressures on us. For people to have thought about these issues and really discussed them with their loved ones, their closest friends … that’s so valuable. That’s how we treat another milestone, birth. People celebrate birth and there’s support from the community and lots of discussions. I think it’s fantastic to have these end-of-life conversations beyond the doctor’s office. You’re giving the community and families the language and tools to talk about this. That’s critical.

You have spoken about the gift of clarity that people can give to the ones they love. Can you expand on that?

Over the last few years, probably the last decade, there has been on a national level a real push for clarity. The gift of clarity comes from talking about end-of-life care in a way we were not in the past. You see this in medical schools, residency programs, and in private practices. We have palliative care specialists who are giving health providers the language to talk about all this — beyond DNR. I teach residents and I find it so interesting about how comfortably young physicians talk about advance directives, personal choices, and power of attorney. When I was a chief resident I really didn’t have all this information.

So clearly things have improved. But are we still subjecting people to painful and uncomfortable treatments at the end of their lives that will not improve the length or quality of their lives?

We’ve made strides and I credit groups like yours and palliative care specialists, a wonderful group of physicians. But, yes, we still see that happen. I see it in my work. When you are caring for someone who has not had the gift of really talking with their loved ones about what they want at the end of life and you are facing the system pressures while trying to navigate the journey … the path can be harder to take and there may not be the death the person wanted. It does happen. We have more work to do.

For more information on Dr. Pauline Chen, please visit www.prhspeakers.com

I hope you all can join us June 12 for our Conversation of Your Life (“COYL”) Breakfast, which will highlight the innovative efforts taking place in New Jersey communities to change the culture around end-of-life care discussions. Leaders in our COYL program will talk about the truly interesting ways they are facilitating these conversations.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Burlington County Freeholder Linda Hughes kicked off county activities by signing her own “Five Wishes” for her end-of-life care at a public freeholder meeting.
  • In Mercer County, author Ellen Rand spoke about her book “Last Comforts” at the Hopewell Borough Town Hall, and at the Hamilton Senior Center.
  • The Camden County Surrogate gives regular talks on advance care planning at senior centers as well as police and fire stations.

Our keynote speaker is the author Dr. Pauline Chen, who will speak from a physician’s perspective. You can read our poignant interview with Dr. Chen in this issue of Symptoms & Cures. This is a topic that touches every element of health care and to improve we’ll need efforts from every corner. We’ll need technology solutions. We’ll need the state and other payers to reimburse for providers to have these tough conversations with their patients.

At our breakfast, you’ll also hear from our new state health commissioner, Shereef M. Elnahal, M.D., M.B.A. And also we want to hear from you, our members — many of you on the front lines of health care — to share your ideas on how to improve end-of-life care in New Jersey.  You can register for our breakfast here.

The rates for Caesarian-section births vary widely by hospital in New Jersey, but health-care advocates and childbirth experts agree on one thing: Those rates are too high – and getting higher.

The Garden State joined Florida, Kentucky, New York and Texas as the top five states in the nation with the highest number of C-sectiondeliveries, says the Leapfrog Group, a non-profit organization that issues report cards on hospital safety.

Certainly, there are situations which call for a surgical rather than a vaginal birth: cases of multiple births, for example, or when the mother has high blood pressure, or the fetus is showing signs of distress. Other indications include breech births, irregular hearts in either mother or baby, and problems with the placenta.

But although advocates have been lobbying for years to reduce the frequency of the procedure when it’s not medically recommended, rates continue to remain at unhealthy levels.

In Leapfrog’s most recent report, only nine of the 47 hospitals that deliver babies in New Jersey and which submitted data met the group’s standard of performing no more than 23.9 percent C-sections.

That was down from 11 hospitals the previous year.

In the study, Christ Hospital in Jersey City reported the lowest C-section rate (14-percent) and CentraState Medical Center in Freehold the highest (42.1-percent).

The wide disparity in hospitals’ approaches to birth suggest that more factors than health are at play. Patient demand, a doctor’s time constraints and a fear of malpractice – all these and more have a role.

The work Leapfrog does is significant, serving to heighten public awareness that an all-too-common procedure has real-life implications for both mother and child.

Mothers who deliver by C-section typically take longer to heal, face longer hospital stays and sometimes encounter problems during subsequent pregnancies. Leapfrog’s report also noted that infants born by C-section face a greater risk of developing medical problems such as diabetes or asthma down the road.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, had these realities in mind when she urged the state to do better when it comes to reducing the incidence of unwarranted C-sections.

“The hospital where an expectant mother delivers should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth,” Schwimmer said.

Hospitals in other states have been successful in driving down the rate of unnecessary C-sections. In Newport Beach, Cal., for example, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian reduced its rate from 38 percent to just under 33 percent in just three years, largely by closely monitoring the procedures and exerting pressure on doctors to modify their behavior.

Only a team effort will bring a about a similar response in our state, but the results will be well worth it. Raising consumer awareness is the first step.

Published by Nicole Leonard, Press of Atlantic City

Only a few New Jersey hospitals are fully meeting maternity and childbirth health-care goals, according to a new national report.

The 2018 Maternity Care Report released Tuesday by the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit patient advocacy group, revealed while a handful of state hospitals excel at reducing childbirth risk factors and unnecessary procedures, a large number do not meet some of Leapfrog’s highest standards.

“We need all the New Jersey hospitals that provide maternity care to meet the Leapfrog standards,” Linda Schwimmer, president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said in a statement. “Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey.”

The United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality of any developed country, reports show.

About 26 women per 100,000 live births died from pregnancy-related complications in 2015, according to a Global Burden of Disease Study published in The Lancet.

Leapfrog’s newest report, which used maternity data from the 2017 Leapfrog Hospital Survey, looked at average rates of cesarean-sections (surgical delivery), episiotomies (a surgical cut to the opening of the birth canal during childbirth) and early elective deliveries, as well as other measures for each reporting hospital.

Maternity data from about 47 hospitals in New Jersey were examined for most measures. AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus, and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center were the only two with obstetric services that did not report data to the Leapfrog survey and were not included in the report.

Only nine hospitals met Leapfrog’s goal of having 23.9 percent or fewer births done by C-section. Reporting South Jersey hospitals had a range of 25 percent to 36.6 percent, according to the report.

“New Jersey can and must do better to reduce C-section rates, which vary widely among hospitals,” Schwimmer said. “There are times when a C-section is needed. But the hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth.”

About 11 hospitals met Leapfrog’s goal for episiotomy rates of 5 percent or less. Inspira Medical Center Vineland had one of the lowest rates at 1.9 percent, while Cape Regional Medical Center had the second-highest rate in the state, at 32.9 percent of births.

The good news is all but two reporting hospitals have kept rates of early elective deliveries, or scheduled C-sections or medical inductions performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy without medical necessity, below 5 percent of all births.

Leapfrog researchers said these kinds of deliveries have been on the decline for years. The national rate for elective deliveries was 17 percent in 2010.

Cape Regional and Shore Medical Center both had no early elective deliveries in the reporting period, and Inspira Vineland and Southern Ocean Medical Center both had only 2.6 percent of all births fall into this category, according to the report.

A majority of reporting hospitals also did well in preventing women from developing deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in a deep vein, and reaching expected levels in neonatal intensive care unit outcomes.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said in a statement that officials plan to create a maternal quality health care collaborative that would identify maternity care best practices at high-performing hospitals and make it possible for other hospitals to replicate them.

 

Published by Susan K. Livio on NJ.com.

New Jersey hospitals’ longstanding problem of unnecessarily delivering babies by Cesarian-section got worse last year, a practice that puts mothers and their infants at a greater risk of complications, according to a new report released Tuesday.

New Jersey, Florida, Kentucky, New York and Texas recorded the highest number of C-section deliveries in the nation, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that issues biannual report cards on hospital safety. 

Of the 47 hospitals in New Jersey that deliver babies and submitted data for analysis, only nine met Leapfrog’s standard of performing no more than 23.9 percent C-sections, according to the report. In last year’s report, 11 hospitals met that standard.

C-sections put mothers at risk of infection and blood clots, prolong the recovery process, create chronic pelvic pain and may cause problems in future pregnancies. For infants, C-sections put them at greater risk of developing breathing problems, such as asthma, and diabetes, according to the report.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and consumer advocacy group, said the report provides critical information the public needs to know when choosing a hospital.

“At the Quality Institute, improving maternity care is an essential part of our over all mission. The Leapfrog findings show the absolute need for our work,” Schwimmer said.

“New Jersey can and must do better to reduce C-section rates, which vary widely among hospitals. There are times when a C-section is needed. But, the hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth, Schwimmer said.

“Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey.”

The warnings about unnecessary C-section deliveries are not new. The medical community has been trying for years to reduce the frequency of the procedure if it is not medically recommended.

The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit group that focuses on hospital safety has taken on the issue with health benefits consultant Castlight by issuing these periodic reports.

“Childbirth is the number one reason for hospitalization among all populations and age groups,” Castlight Chief Product Officer, Maeve O’Meara said in a statement.

“That alone tells us how critical it is to provide this information not just to consumers but to employers as well, who have a high stake in the care their employees receive. Employers should understand how hospitals are performing and we’re pleased to partner with Leapfrog to bring this information into the sunlight.”

The Leapfrog survey looked solely at births among first time mothers of single babies – not twins – that were in the conventional head-down position. The findings are based on data from calendar year or fiscal year 2017.

Christ Hospital in Jersey City reported the lowest C-section rate, at 14 percent, according to the report. CentraState Medical Center in Freehold recorded the highest C-section rates, at 42.1 percent.

“CentraState readily acknowledges our current C-section trends and we are working with our physicians and clinicians on improving processes to lower the number of c-sections performed at CentraState,” Abbey Dardozzi, a hospital spokeswoman, said in an email. “We are also very proud of our low infant and maternal mortality rates.”

In addition to Christ Hospital, the other hospitals that met the safety standard were:

Capital Health Medical Center, Hopewell;

Hoboken University Medical Center;

Cooper University Hospital, Camden;

Holy Name Medical Center, Teaneck;

Inspira Medical Center, Elmer;

Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth;

University Hospital, Newark;

Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

Atlantic Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, which recently changed its name to Hudson Regional Hospital, did not supply data and are not included in the findings.

 Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal praised Leapfrog for focusing attention on this important public health issue.

“A number of hospitals perform quite well,” Elnahal said. “Our goal is to create a maternal care quality collaborative to spread the best practices that the highest performing hospitals are achieving and make sure that as many hospitals as possible can replicate them.”

The report also highlighted the need to cut down the number of early deliveries they perform, defined as delivering a baby before 39 weeks without medical necessity. Babies delivered too early are at risk of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, and in rare cases, death.

Only two hospitals exceeded the 5 percent maximum: Hackensack University Medical Center, at 7.1 percent, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, at 10.3 percent.

Published by Linda Washburn, northjersey.com

New Jersey hospitals performed worse — not better — in lowering the rate of Cesarean deliveries for newborns in the most recent report on the quality of maternity care, released Tuesday.

Only nine of 48 hospitals where babies are delivered brought the rate of such surgery down to the national goal level, said the report. That compares with 15 hospitals that had reached the goal set by the federal Health and Human Services Department a year earlier.

Some of the busiest hospitals for childbirth — such as CentraState Medical Center in Freehold and Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center — have C-section rates over 40 percent, far above the national and state averages.

The state “can and must do better to reduce C-section rates,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey.”

No one says the goal should be zero C-sections. Surgical births are sometimes necessary for the health of the mother and baby. The government said hospitals should strive to do no more than 23.9 percent of births via C-section.

Hospitals separated by less than 5 miles can provide vastly different childbirth experiences. For example, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck has a C-section rate of 16.2 percent, compared with Hackensack’s rate of 41.0 percent.

“The hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth,” Schwimmer said, noting the wide gaps among New Jersey hospitals.

More than 100,000 babies are born each year in New Jersey, and about 40 percent of their deliveries are covered by Medicaid, the state insurance program for low-income people.

C-sections cost more than vaginal childbirth and result in longer hospital stays. For the mother, the procedure carries a higher risk of complications such as infection or the formation of blood clots. And babies born without being squeezed through the birth canal have a higher risk of respiratory problems and lack exposure to the mother’s bacteria, which can help their developing immune system.

New Jersey’s C-section rate has remained stubbornly high for years.

The state ranked fourth — behind Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida — in 2016, with an overall rate of 36.1 percent, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

New Jersey mothers also are twice as likely as the national average to die in the year after giving birth.

 Their deaths may be related to the unusually high rate of surgical deliveries, experts say. That issue — and the highest-in-the-nation mortality gap between black babies and white babies — are among the health care priorities of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.

“This data should be a wake-up call that improving maternal health in New Jersey requires transparency” and new ways to make hospitals more supportive to mothers and babies, said Jill Wodnick, a childbirth educator at Montclair State University. She led a group marking New Jersey’s first Maternal Health Day earlier this year.

Women crave information that allows them “to understand the quality of maternity care” and the facilities available at various hospitals, she said. In California, for example, consumers can search by ZIP code for information about the birth practices and quality metrics at their hospitals.

Use of this information, combined with the right financial incentives, could lead “New Jersey to see vast improvements in its maternal and infant health outcomes, across all races,” Schwimmer said.

The report Tuesday from the Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that provides quality comparisons of hospitals, found that C-section rates varied greatly across the state, from 14 percent at CarePoint Health-Christ Hospital in Jersey City to 42.1 percent at CentraState.

Leapfrog measures the rate for first-time, full-term, singleton births with the baby’s head down. The data are from either the 2016 calendar year or the year ending June 30, 2017, depending on what the hospital submitted.

The use of episiotomies also varied widely, from 1.3 percent at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly to 36.6 percent at JFK Medical Center in Edison.

An episiotomy is an incision to widen the birth canal. Although it was once routine, recent research has found that more selective use results in fewer problems for the mother in terms of tears, pelvic-floor defects or loss of bladder or bowel control.

The average rate of episiotomies has been declining nationally but remains above the goal of 5 percent. In New Jersey, only 11 hospitals met that goal.

One bright spot is the declining rate of early elective delivery, when labor is induced or a C-section performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy. The rate has declined nationally to an average of 1.6 percent, due in part to hospitals’ efforts after their rates were publicly reported.

In New Jersey, only two hospitals exceeded the goal of 5 percent: Englewood Hospital Medical Center, where the rate was 10.3 percent, and Hackensack, where the rate was 7.1 percent. Nineteen hospitals reduced the rate to zero.

The Leapfrog Group noted that two hospitals did not publicly report their quality data for 2017: Atlanticare Regional Medical Center Mainland Campus and Hudson Regional Hospital (formerly called Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center).

The state health commissioner said he was pleased to see the results from Leapfrog on maternity care.

 “A number of hospitals perform quite well,” said the commissioner, Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “Our goal is to create a maternal care quality collaborative to spread the best practices that the highest-performing hospitals are achieving and make sure that as many hospitals as possible can replicate them.”

Ginny Dunn, HealthWell Foundation

 

GERMANTOWN, Md.May 10, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The HealthWell Foundation®, an independent non-profit that provides a financial lifeline for inadequately insured Americans, has launched a new fund to provide copayment assistance for behavioral health treatments related to a cancer diagnosis. Through the Cancer-Related Behavioral Health Fund, HealthWell will provide up to $2,000 in financial assistance for a 12-month grant to eligible patients who have annual household incomes up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level.

A cancer diagnosis brings a wealth of psychological challenges. Depression and anxiety are common diagnoses associated with these challenges, yet social or emotional support is offered in less than half of cancer patients’ care. Behavioral health issues can also contribute to harmful health behaviors.

“Distress in the cancer setting is a relatively common but disruptive phenomenon, which adversely affects physical and emotional well-being, interferes with treatment, and increases suffering. The American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) advocates for holistic patient care to address patient and caregiver concerns of all types yet also acknowledges that not all aspects of this care may be available at the cancer treatment setting or available without additional cost,” said Teresa Deshields, Ph.D., ABPP, President of APOS. “The resources offered by the HealthWell Foundation will be enormously helpful to facilitate patients getting the care they need without additional financial burden.”

The HealthWell Foundation recognizes the unmet needs of oncology patients and the importance mental health has on treatment, recovery and overall well-being. Through this unique fund, HealthWell will assist patients in covering their out-of-pocket treatment-related costs for prescription drugs, counseling services, psychotherapy, and transportation.

“We know that the risk of mental health concerns, like clinical depression, is often higher in individuals with serious medical illnesses, such as cancer. In fact, it is estimated that one in four people with cancer also suffer from clinical depression,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO, Mental Health America. “It is important to know the signs – some of which can be mistakenly attributed to the cancer itself. We applaud the HealthWell Foundation for recognizing this need and dedicating assistance for behavioral health treatments related to a cancer diagnosis.”

“If cancer patients have certain behavioral health conditions and they are not treated for them, it can negatively impact health outcomes by decreasing the chances they will seek and adhere to treatment and by affecting their immune systems and ability to fight off cancer,” said Suzanne Miller, Ph.D., Professor of Cancer Prevention and Control and Director of Patient Empowerment and Health Decision Making at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “This new fund will help remove the financial barrier patients may face when seeking evidence-based psychological treatment.” Dr. Miller is Chairman of the Board for the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and also serves on the boards of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the HealthWell Foundation.

To determine eligibility and apply for financial assistance, visit HealthWell’s Cancer-Related Behavioral Health Fundpage. To learn how you can support this or other HealthWell programs, visit HealthWellFoundation.org.

The HealthWell Foundation would like to recognize the following organizations for their guidance and support in helping us develop and promote our Cancer-Related Behavioral Health Fund: American Psychosocial Oncology SocietyAnxiety and Depression Association of AmericaAssociation of Community Cancer CentersCancer Support CommunityMental Health America, and the National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors.

About the HealthWell Foundation
A nationally recognized, independent non-profit organization founded in 2003, the HealthWell Foundation has served as a safety net for more than 320,000 underinsured patients in more than 60 disease areas by providing access to life-changing medical treatments they otherwise would not be able to afford. HealthWell provides financial assistance to adults and children facing medical hardship resulting from gaps in their insurance that cause out-of-pocket medical expenses to escalate rapidly. HealthWell assists with the treatment-related cost-sharing obligations of these patients. For more information, visit www.HealthWellFoundation.org.

HealthWell recently launched a behavioral health series through its sponsored blog, Real World Health Care. Please visit www.realworldhealthcare.org to view the series and subscribe.

About American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS)
APOS is the only multidisciplinary organization in the United States dedicated to the psychosocial aspects of cancer treatment. APOS membership consists of 475+ multidisciplinary practitioners and scientists from psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing, oncology, clergy, patient advocacy, and social and behavioral health scientists who collaborate to apply clinical, translational, behavioral and psycho-oncological research into psychosocial oncology practice. For more information, visit: 
www.apos-society.org
 or @APOSHQ.

About Mental Health America (MHA)
Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Our work is driven by our commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated care, services, and supports for those who need it, with recovery as the goal. Much of our current work is guided by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. To learn more, visit: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net.