There. I said it.
Actually, I’ve said it about a thousand times.
If there is one thing I am, it’s persistent. Or maybe tenacious is a better word for it. Or perhaps stubborn, obstinate, resolute, or headstrong might be a better fit.
Whatever it is, I’ve often wondered why God didn’t give me that “quiet and gentle” spirit He esteems so highly in women (1 Peter 3:4). Maybe it is because quiet and gentle women rarely get insurance companies to look their way. Especially when they are asking them for money…
Perhaps my three year old has the same calling on her life. She isn’t so quiet and gentle either…
Regardless, I am not over-exaggerating things when I tell you that I believe, with my entire being, that one reason God has me here on this earth is to advocate for expanded insurance coverage for cancer patients. I don’t just know it….I knowit. The way you know the sun is going to rise tomorrow, or that a rainbow will always follow the rain.
I have many callings on my life – wife, mother to 7 kids, 6 chickens, one cat and one dog, non-profit director, professor. And THIS.
Because medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and cancer is expensive.
Because less than 5% of patients exercise during treatment.
Because since the first published study in 1986, research has demonstrated time and time again that exercise during cancer treatment improves patient outcome…in the way of:
· Reduced fatigue
· Improved quality of life
· Reduced pain
· Reduced anxiety and depression
· Improved cardiovascular function
· Improved sleep
· Improved body image
· Improved strength
· Improved endurance
· Improved body composition
· Improved feelings of control over life
· Improved treatment compliance
· Improved kidney function
· Improved gas exchange
· Improved protein synthesis
· Improved memory and concentration
· Improved appetite
· Improved mood
· Improved feelings of purpose
· Improved social feelings
· Weight management
· Improved remission rates (for some kinds of cancer)
· Reduced mortality rates (for some kinds of cancer)
· Improved neurological function
· Improved endocrine function
· Risk reduction of other co-morbidities, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure
(I could go on….)
Also, our research demonstrates a cost savings for the hospitals and insurance providers! Patients who exercise go to the ER fewer times, have less 30-day readmits, and have an average length of hospital stay that is nearly 2 days shorter than their sedentary counterparts!
In the spring, an outside research group validated our findings, and took it one step further. They found that Maple Tree was saving insurance payers nearly $3,000 per patientin the first 6 months of enrollment in our program.
$3,000 per patient in 6 months is HUGE!
Think about it – there are 15.5 million cancer survivors in the US right now. Each year, more than 1.7 million more people are diagnosed with cancer.
Even if you don’t like math, you can still look at that and know that $3,000 X 15.5 million X 1.7 million = A LOT!!!
A WHOLE LOT.
That is why I believe that insurance companies should reimburse for exercise oncology!
Here’s the deal. Maple Tree works. And we are growing as a result. Over the next 6 months, we are opening at least 9 new centers – bringing us to a total of 18 sites in 4 different states.
But, there are more than 1,500 cancer centers in the US.
And less than 5% of them offer any kind of specialized exercise oncology program.
The biggest barrier? COST.
I am committed to keeping our in person services free for our patients. I would never want money to be the reason why someone does not adopt a healthy lifestyle. When someone has to choose between paying their mortgage or buying their medication for the month (as people often do), I would never want to add another financial stressor on top of that. Not when I know how much exercising will benefit them!
This is why I am working closely with insurance companies to cover these services. This is why I went to Washington DC last month.
This is why I am so happy to report that last week Anthem agreed to fund a pilot study to measure the effect of our program in a clinical trial.
Baby steps. But sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. And I have no doubt we will get there!