Today, the former New York mayor joins two other cancer survivors in seeking the Republican presidential nomination: Arizona Sen. John McCain has been treated for melanoma, the most serious type of skin malignancy, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
All three have offered proposals with the stated aim of helping the 47 million people in the U.S. who have no health insurance, including those with preexisting medical conditions.
But under the plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves could not be sure of getting coverage -- especially if they were not already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek insurance as individuals.
"Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage," said economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the candidates' proposals. "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it."
If the arguments against the Democratic presidential candidates' healthcare plans include higher taxes and greater government involvement, then the Achilles' heel of the GOP plans is their dependence on the private market, which often rejects applicants with health problems.
Republicans want to expand the existing private insurance system, offering new tax breaks as a way of helping people buy insurance individually. But they also want to avoid federal regulation that would tell insurers whom they have to cover and how much they may charge.
That means the self-employed and others seeking individual coverage would be subject to a marketplace in which insurers generally pick the healthiest applicants and turn the rest away. Cancer survivors -- even if they have been free of disease for several years -- are routinely denied health insurance when they try to purchase it as individuals.
Even if coverage is offered, it often comes with restrictions or high premiums that many find unaffordable. (Full story)