Professor Meunier, Doctor Hansen, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The extraordinary recent progress in science and medicine is delivering better diagnosis and treatment outcomes for cancer patients has changed their realities. This positive progress has also helped keep mortality rates stable – or even bring them down, depending on the type of cancer.
As a result, survival rates have increased markedly over the last 20 years.
Our children offer perhaps the best – and most heartening – illustration of how far we've come in terms of improving the outcomes and prospects for cancer patients. Fifty years ago, in high-income countries, only about 30% of children diagnosed with cancer survived another ten years. Today, more than 80% of children with cancer recover completely.
This fantastic medical progress has unfortunately not yet filtered through to commercial practices and we need to address this.
The right to be forgotten is about equality, and addressing stigma and discrimination.
For myself, it is unacceptable that still today, persons with a history of cancer face numerous social and financial challenges, including limited access to mortgages and loans.
As we can see when looking at the situation in different Member States, there are persons who have been cancer free for more than ten years and who are still facing obstacles in accessing financial services.
So, during this European Week Against Cancer, I'm glad that we're talking about an issue close to my heart and yours: access to financial services for people with a history of cancer.
Fairness, for cancer patients and their families.
With Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, our approach to cancer is ambitious, from prevention to the very issues of survivorship before us today.
And, for the first time, we will address issues at an EU level, both from the medical and social spheres at EU level.
The “right to be forgotten” is one such issue on which we are determined to bring positive change.
Our ambition: to ensure fairness.
As matters stand, bankers and insurers cannot easily assess the risks associated with cancer and possible relapse. So they tend to be cautious in their approach. The result is that many of those who have been through -and who are in long-term remission often experience unfair treatment in accessing financial services. For instance, they may face unusually high premiums, although they have been cured for many years, even decades.
Imagine, as an adult, being denied the same kind of loan or credit conditions as other people because, as a child, you had cancer – even though you've been cancer-free for years!
Clearly, action is needed to spare people what Professor Meunier has rightly described as an ordeal.
With that in mind, I'm pleased that, today, we are publishing our study giving an overview of the situation at EU and Member State level.
This study will be our baseline setting out the next steps for EU action.
The study marks an important first step in itself, by gauging the state of access to financial products in EU Member States, and exploring how Member States and stakeholders feel about national and EU-wide action in this area.
Let me highlight three key findings.
First, fair access to financial products for people with a history of cancer is on the radar screen. It is a focus of attention in most Member States, with patient and consumer organisations having raised it.
Second, some Member States have already tackled the fairness issue successfully and offer good models. This is a very important step to note. There is already legislation in place in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy, while in Luxembourg a convention has been agreed with the insurance companies.
This shows us that it is perfectly feasible, realistic and achievable to ensure that reality keeps pace with medical progress.
Third, that the regulatory landscape varies across the EU. Regulatory or self-regulatory actions are in place in seven Member States. Furthermore, some Member States tell us that fair access to financial products for people with a history of cancer is addressed in other, more general legislation, such as general anti-discrimination legislation.
But this is not enough, it needs to be addressed specifically.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These encouraging findings show that change is possible. And that we have something to work towards.
I welcome the support coming from many patient organisations.
And today, it is with utmost determination and our usual sense of optimism, that we are launching an EU-wide process to address the “right to be forgotten” in all Member States, as we committed under Europe's Beating Cancer Plan.
To be successful, we need everyone on board: governments, the health sector, the patient community – and, of course, financial institutions, as they are the key players here.
We will talk and we will listen to the insurance and financial sector about EU-level policy actions and we will work together to find common ground.
We will provide them with trustworthy research outcomes and solid evidence about cancer risks.
Ultimately, we want to help insurers and banks better assess the creditworthiness or insurance risk of cancer survivors.
Working hand in hand with my colleague Commissioner McGuinness, as a second step, we will this year launch more extensive work to gather additional evidence and insights in view of establishing the first ever EU Code of Conduct.
Throughout this process, we will work closely with Member States, health and patients organisations and the financial industry with the aim to adopting a Code of Conduct in this area by early 2024.
Only joint efforts will enable us to make a tangible difference. We are counting on your continued support and commitment. Working as a team, we can find viable solutions that enable cancer survivors to lead the long, fulfilling lives they deserve.
Working as a team we have possibility to collectively make a difference in areas that have not yet been explored at EU level.
Fairness for cancer patients is a noble objective for all of us to work towards. Let us make the right to be forgotten a reality.
Thank you very much.
- Publication date
- 30 May 2022
- Representation in Cyprus