Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Cancer Policy: EU Commission Optimistic About Achieving Cancer Code Despite Setbacks

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Cancer survivors are at the forefront of the European Commission’s efforts to establish an EU Code of Conduct that ensures equal access to financial services, despite the fragmented approaches from the health and financial sectors. Although the original timeline for implementing this Code has slipped, the Commission is determined to see it through.

Recent advancements in medicine have significantly improved the survival rates for people diagnosed with cancer. Early diagnosis and innovative treatments have transformed cancer into a manageable condition for many, leading to a growing number of long-term survivors. This positive shift necessitates a corresponding update in the practices of financial service providers to ensure fair treatment of cancer survivors.

Cancer Survivors: EU Commission’s Proposed Code to Prevent Discrimination in Financial Services

The Commission initially aimed to publish the European Code in cooperation with health stakeholders in March this year. The purpose of the Code is to reflect developments in cancer treatments within the practices of financial service providers. It aims to ensure that only necessary and proportionate information is used to assess the eligibility of applicants for financial products. Importantly, the Code would prohibit discrimination against former cancer patients when applying for financial services and would eliminate the requirement to disclose previous cancer diagnoses.

Despite the ongoing conversations between health and finance stakeholders, there has been significant progress, though no concrete deadline for publishing the Code has been set. This initiative is part of the EU Beating Cancer Plan, a key health initiative of the European Commission during this mandate.

Resistance has come from the insurance sector. John Turner, head of life and health underwriting at Swiss Re, expressed concerns that not every patient has the same risk profile. He pointed out that various factors, such as the type of cancer, the stage at diagnosis, age, and underlying conditions, influence the risk profile. Since cancer is a primary cause of claims in the insurance mortality portfolio, reinsurers argue that their models would be threatened if they could not account for these risks.

Mairead McGuiness, the European Commissioner in charge of financial services, emphasized that insurers’ risk assessments should reflect medical and scientific progress. She highlighted that the Code would include a clear commitment by insurers to disregard an applicant’s cancer history after a certain period. “We could put that [the code] in place now. And it could start having an impact now,” she said.


Cancer History: EU Commission Aims for Unified ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Policy Across Member States

Currently, only eight countries—Belgium, Cyprus, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Spain—have legislation that guarantees the right for cancer history to be forgotten after a fixed period. Four other countries operate with a national code of conduct. The duration before a condition is considered ‘forgotten’ varies: ten years in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal; eight years in Belgium; seven years in Romania; and five years in France and Spain.

The Commission is advocating for a maximum of five years for inclusion in the EU-wide Code. This standardization aims to harmonize the rights of cancer survivors across Europe, ensuring that their past medical history does not unfairly hinder their access to financial services.

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In 2020, 23.7 million people in Europe were living following a cancer diagnosis, a 41% increase from a decade earlier. Of these, between six and nine million are very long-term survivors, having been diagnosed more than ten years ago. This substantial population underscores the urgent need for policies that support their reintegration into all aspects of life, including financial services.

The European Commission’s initiative to create a unified EU Code of Conduct for cancer survivors represents a significant step towards eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal access to financial services. By addressing the disparities in current practices and reflecting the advancements in cancer treatment, the Commission aims to set new standards that will benefit millions of cancer survivors across Europe. The ongoing discussions and efforts to finalize this Code highlight the commitment to improving the quality of life for those who have overcome cancer, ensuring they are not unfairly penalized for their past health conditions.

Resource: Euronews, may 23, 2024

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