When you can't breathe, nothing else matters.

More than 32 million Americans have some kind of lung disease—asthma, COPD (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis), lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis or others—and each of them know that when you struggle to breathe, that's all that matters. Quality and affordable healthcare coverage is so important for every American, and especially for those living with a lung disease.

Most lung diseases can be treated but not cured, which is why we know how crucial it is to PREVENT lung disease. Preventive services such as quit smoking treatments, lung cancer screenings for individuals at high risk and pneumonia and influenza vaccinations must continue to be available to everyone without cost sharing (co-pays, prior authorization, etc.) in order to maximize the number of Americans who are helped.

The American Lung Association knows what is at stake for Americans who have lung disease: without access to affordable lifesaving treatments—whether they be asthma inhalers, pulmonary rehabilitation or one of the promising new immunotherapy lung cancer therapies—people with lung disease will suffer. That's why we're fighting to make sure the millions of Americans with lung disease continue to have healthcare coverage that provides quality care.

There has been progress. More Americans have coverage than ever before. For many this coverage is more robust, providing access to an essential health benefit package that does not exclude common healthcare needs. However, healthcare costs continue to rise and cost sharing has become more complicated.  More people have higher copays, larger premiums, bigger deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs than ever before. Health plans are requiring prior authorization and stepped therapy, creating even more hurdles for patients and their physicians to jump. We know that these barriers make it harder to go to the doctor and get treatments for lung disease.

With all the uncertainty in Washington, D.C. about healthcare coverage, our leaders need to know who is impacted and why. For us to speak up and advocate for quality health care, we need your help. The American Lung Association is asking everyone with a lung disease to share why coverage is so important to you and your loved ones. We've created a place for you to share your story of why coverage matters to you: Lung.org/healthcare-stories.

Debra has already shared her story with us:

Debra is a 63-year-old woman with stage 4 emphysema (COPD). Because she has healthcare coverage, Debra has access to a pulmonologist and can afford the medications her physician prescribes. As a result, she is still able to work, pay taxes and be a contributing member of society. But if she were to lose her healthcare coverage, Debra knows she wouldn't be able to work any longer. She also knows that if health insurance companies are (once again) allowed to tell people who've been diagnosed with a disease, like COPD, that they no longer have access to quality health care because of their pre-existing condition, she would not be able to afford the premiums insurance companies would be allowed to charge.

Real life stories like Debra's and many others similar to her really hit home about why healthcare coverage matters so much for ourselves, our families and loved ones.

We think the following protections are important to keep moving forward:

  • No discrimination of healthcare coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Currently, Americans with lung disease, such as lung cancer, asthma and COPD cannot be denied health insurance. Eliminating discrimination on pre-existing conditions literally saves lives and provides access to health care for all patients, including Debra.
  • No lifetime or annual caps on healthcare costs. People with lung cancer, COPD and asthma, need to be assured they will have coverage to care in order to treat and manage their diseases.
  • Children must be able to remain on their parents' health plans until age 26. This continuity of healthcare coverage is especially important for individuals with lung diseases, such as asthma, so they can manage their disease and prevent serious asthma attacks, which are both life threatening and costly.
  • Cap Annual Maximum Out-of-Pocket Costs. Capping annual in-network out-of-pocket costs protects families from financial struggles when they experience significantly higher healthcare costs. This provides certainty to patients that healthcare expenses will not lead to bankruptcy and that they can access the care they need.
  • Further reduce the number of uninsured Americans. While more than 20 million Americans have recently gained coverage, another 28.9 million remain uninsured. Future healthcare legislation must include ways to ensure that the newly insured can remain covered, as well as extend coverage to Americans who are still uninsured.

Please take a moment to share why healthcare coverage matters to you at Lung.org/healthcare-stories. Together we can make a difference.

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