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​New digital storybook gives voice to individuals impacted by Medicaid

On July 10, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) launched a digital collection of stories about individuals, families, and health care providers sharing their experiences with the Medicaid program.

Developed as part of ACS CAN's Medicaid Covers US public education project, the digital storybook features individuals who have been impacted by this insurance program, those that could have been aided by Medicaid if they had qualified, and health professionals that have seen the impact this program has made in the lives of patients and in the health care system.

The digital storybook can be accessed at

Launched in April 2019, the Medicaid Covers U.S. public education project intends to engage decision makers, community members, and the public in a dialogue about the vital services Medicaid provides. The public education project is supported by a grant to ACS provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and funding from ACS and ACS CAN. ACS CAN is investing additional funding to support ongoing advocacy work across the country.

The project focuses on six states: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. Leveraging the power of storytelling, ACS CAN aims to promote the positive impact Medicaid has made on beneficiaries and health care providers, as well as state and local economies.

"In the fight against cancer, we know that affordable access to health care is critical, and Medicaid plays a major role in helping people get and stay healthy," said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. "By helping to ensure people have access to health care when they need it most, Medicaid makes it possible for people and economies to thrive."

The storybook may be shared with volunteers, donors, and others who are interested in learning more about the role Medicaid plays for residents, health care providers, and state economies. 

If you have questions about the storybook or the overall Medicaid Covers US project, please contact Hilary Gee Goeckner, ACS CAN state and local campaigns manager – Medicaid.

  • House subcommittee considers bills addressing patient health care costs and access issues

    ​On June 11, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health began marking-up a series of bills aimed at reducing patient out-of-pocket costs and preserving access to health care. 

    Specifically, the committee is considering a measure that would exempt patients from having to pay surprise medical bills in most circumstances. Surprise medical bills are bills that result from a patient unexpectedly receiving care or a service from an out-of-network provider, often during an urgent situation where neither the patient nor the provider are aware of the discrepancy.

    Also being considered are several measures on prescription drug pricing and a bill extending funding for the Community Health Center Fund for four years at $4 billion annually.

    A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

    “We welcome today’s committee action focused on reducing patients’ out-of-pocket health care costs and preserving access to essential health care services.

    “In particular, we commend Committee Chairman, Rep. Pallone (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Walden (R-Ore.) for their bipartisan work on the issue of surprise billing. Taking the patient out of the middle of billing issues when they receive care or services that are inadvertently outside of their insurance network would provide significant relief to cancer patients, many of whom are already struggling with difficult financial circumstances. We’re pleased that this bill would provide cancer patients more certainty for their medical expenses.

    “We’re also pleased to see the committee advance legislation reauthorizing and extending funding for the Community Health Center Fund. This program is essential to providing preventive services and timely care to cancer patients and their families. In fact, evidence shows those who receive care at community health centers are more likely to receive mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer screening than non-health center patients nationally.

    “Additionally, we applaud the Committee for examining ways to address rising prescription drug prices. Drug therapies play an integral role in cancer treatment. As more innovative cancer therapies become available, greater transparency will be necessary to support better choices, lower costs, and improved care for cancer patients.

    “On behalf of all cancer patients, survivors and their families, we urge Congress to continue working together to reduce health care costs and improve access to quality health care services.”

  • Atlanta joins the list of cities that recognize everyone’s right to breathe clean air

    A long-awaited and hard-fought victory for ACS CAN volunteers and staff

    Today, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms signed into law the smoke-free ordinance passed by the Atlanta City Council last week. The law will take effect on Jan. 2, 2020, making restaurants, bars and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport smoke-free. 

    ACS CAN will continue to work with the Mayor’s office and the City of Atlanta to effectively implement the law and ensure everyone’s right to breathe clean air is protected.

    Read below for a recap of this successful campaign led by ACS CAN and the Smoke-free ATL coalition.

    On July 1, the Atlanta City Council passed a smoke-free ordinance that will make workplaces, including restaurants, bars and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport smoke-free. This successful campaign was spearheaded by ACS CAN as leaders of the Smoke-free ATL coalition. Staff and volunteers, both in Georgia and nationally, were joined by senior leadership, including ACS CAN and ACS CEO Gary Reedy and ACS Acting Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD, in garnering support for this important measure that will benefit the health of those who work and live in Atlanta.

    The smoke-free ordinance was introduced earlier this year in Atlanta City Council in the effort to implement a strong local smoke-free law that protects workers, patrons, and visitors in Atlanta from the harms of secondhand smoke exposure. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, which causes nearly 42,000 deaths each year in the U.S. 

    According to U.S. Surgeon’s General, comprehensive smoke-free policies are the only effective method of fully protecting the public from dangerous secondhand smoke, and ACS CAN has been instrumental in advocating for comprehensive smoke-free policies in states and ordinances around the country. Now, Atlanta will join the list of cities that prioritize and recognize everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

    This accomplishment comes after years of dedication and strategic work by ACS CAN advocates and volunteers who sent petitions to council members, attended committee hearings, and spread awareness of this important opportunity to improve the public health of this major city. 

    The Smoke-free Atlanta campaign also received extensive support from public health leaders. Gary, as CEO of ACS CAN, vocalized his strong opinion that Atlanta – home to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ACS’ Global Headquarters – should finally adopt a smoke-free ordinance. Last month he joined Dr. David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General of the United States, on WABE to discuss why Atlanta needed to adopt this important smoke-free measure. Dr. Len testified multiple times to educate the City Council on the dangers of secondhand smoke and the serious health risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure. Just a few weeks ago, three top former U.S. public health leaders wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution calling on the City Council to pass the smoke-free ordinance.

    This is a long-awaited and hard-fought accomplishment in ACS CAN’s ongoing work to reduce the burden of cancer through advocacy and public policy change, and one that was successful due to the skill and determination of the ACS CAN Georgia team, volunteers, and other partners. 

  • Court urged to prioritize patients and uphold health care law

    Protections for pre-existing conditions and coverage standards at risk

    Patient groups are urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to prioritize patient protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions, when it hears oral arguments today (July 9) in the case Texas v. United States. The case is being appealed after a lower court ruling that the entire health care law should be struck down because Congress repealed the individual mandate’s tax penalty. The case was brought by 20 states and is led by the Texas Attorney General.

    The patient groups filed an amicus brief with the Court in April arguing the law was intended to help protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and Congress’s rejection of efforts to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) confirms that intent.

    Following is the groups’ joint statement:

    “Millions of Americans rely on the critical patient protections included in the ACA to access, afford and retain meaningful health coverage that is essential for their well-being. This includes people who suffer from serious, acute and chronic health conditions, like cancer, heart and lung disease, chronic neurological diseases, diabetes, pregnancy, and mental health and substance use disorders.

    “If allowed to stand, the lower court’s ruling would once again mean people could be charged more or denied coverage based on their health history. Insurance plans could impose arbitrary annual and lifetime limits on patients’ coverage and could exclude whole categories of care—like prescription drugs—from their plans. Striking down the law would also jeopardize the tax credits 8 million Americans rely on to afford health insurance on the individual market, and could result in millions of others being dropped from Medicaid should states decide to rescind expanded coverage.

    “The consequences of invalidating the patient protections included in the ACA would be profound and immediate. An estimated 27 million people could lose their health coverage by next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    “We urge the court to keep people with chronic and serious conditions top of mind when they hear arguments today and to respect the will of Congress by preserving health care for millions of Americans.”

    The groups on the brief include the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Hemophilia Federation of America, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, March of Dimes, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Hemophilia Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and The Kennedy Forum.

  • Bipartisan health package offers path toward reducing patients' costs

    Would exempt patients from having to pay surprise medical bills, raise age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21

    On June 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will markup legislation aimed at helping reduce patients’ out-of-pocket health care costs and improving public health. The Lower Health Care Costs Act would exempt patients from having to pay surprise medical bills in most circumstances. Surprise medical bills are often large bills that result from a patient unknowingly receiving care or a service from an out-of-network provider, often during an urgent or emergency situation.

    The bill also includes a measure to encourage generic prescription drug competition (the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples – CREATES Act) so generic drugs can more quickly enter the market, raises the federal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21, and extends funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) through 2024. FQHCs provide critical prevention and diagnostic services to uninsured or underinsured individuals who might otherwise be unable to afford a doctor-recommended cancer screening.

    A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

    “We commend Senators Alexander and Murray for their strong bipartisan work to reduce patients’ out-of-pocket health care costs due to surprise medical bills. These unexpected bills, which happen when a patient inadvertently receives care or services out of their insurance network, are often difficult for cancer patients to afford and add stress to an already stressful situation. We’re pleased to see that this bill would exempt patients from undue financial responsibility under these circumstances and give them some much needed security when planning their medical expenses.

    “Reducing out-of-pocket prescription drug costs is another top priority for cancer patients and we’re encouraged that the CREATES Act is included in this bill. CREATES has the potential to incentivize even more generic drug competition, giving patients cheaper access to lifesaving drug therapies.

    “The most effective means to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs is through improved health and disease prevention. Tobacco use alone accounts for a third of all cancer deaths in the country. We are pleased to see bipartisan consensus to raise the federal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and doing so without requiring states to pass their own Tobacco 21 laws to access federal substance abuse prevention and treatment funding. ACS CAN advocated for this important provision. Raising the age of sale is one of several important policy changes Congress should make to curb skyrocketing youth tobacco use.

    “The bill would also renew funding through 2024 for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), helping to ensure millions of uninsured or underinsured low-income Americans maintain access to essential health services including cancer screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms.

    “On behalf of the more than 1.7 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and the nearly 17 million cancer survivors alive today, we urge Congress to continue working together to address the high cost of health care by removing affordability barriers and promoting prevention and we look forward to working with the lawmakers on these issues.”  

  • Advocates to Congress: It’s time to pass palliative care legislation

    Patient Quality of Life Coalition uses annual lobby day to push for passage of Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act

    Advocates and volunteers from the Patient Quality of Life Coalition (PQLC) will be on Capitol Hill today to share their stories with lawmakers as part of the coalition’s sixth annual lobby day. 

    The PQLC includes more than 40 organizations that collectively work to advance the interests of patients facing serious illness by supporting policies that improve and expand access to high-quality palliative care services. Palliative care provides patients with serious or chronic illnesses an additional layer of coordinated support through a team of specialized professionals, ultimately giving them more control in managing their disease and symptoms and leading to better health outcomes.

    More than 80 PQLC volunteers from 23 states and the District of Columbia will meet with their member of Congress today and ask for their support of the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), bipartisan legislation that would expand and intensify federal research for palliative care services, including symptom and pain management, and would establish palliative care education and training programs for doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. It would also create a national public education and awareness campaign to educate patients and providers about the availability and benefits of palliative care.

    PCHETA unanimously passed in the House of Representatives in the 115th Congress (January 3, 2017 to January 3, 2019) and currently has broad bipartisan support, with more than 220 House co-sponsors.

    “As a result of the coordinated work of the PQLC and our volunteers over the last six years, Congress is increasingly recognizing the beneficial role palliative care services can play for patients living with serious illnesses like cancer,” said Keysha Brooks-Coley, vice president of federal advocacy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and chair of the PQLC. “Through PCHETA, we look at pain and symptom management through a holistic lens that will not only improve patients’ quality of life but will also build a robust workforce dedicated to providing comprehensive care from the moment of diagnosis. It’s time lawmakers take another step forward by passing PCHETA through both chambers of Congress to give patients and families access to more coordinated care that will improve future health outcomes.”

    “The PQLC’s annual lobby day brings together key stakeholders working to advance PCHETA and help ensure access to high-quality palliative and hospice care for the expanding and diverse population of patients with serious illness or multiple chronic conditions, as well as their families and caregivers,” said American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) president Joanne Wolfe, MD MPH FAAHPM.  “We commend the bipartisan congressional champions who have led the effort to develop a well-trained, sustainable hospice and palliative care workforce and will continue to work toward passage of this critically important legislation.” 

  • Department of Veterans Affairs announces facilities will go smoke-free

    Beginning in October 2019

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) announced this week that it will adopt a smoke-free policy for patients, visitors, contractors, volunteers, and other vendors at all DVA health care facilities. 

    The updated policy directive will take effect this October and will prohibit the use of all cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and non-Federal Drug Administration approved e-cigarettes. This announcement is welcome news given the substantial evidence of the harm of secondhand smoke.

    A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), follows:

    “We applaud the Department of Veterans Affairs for issuing a new directive that will allow our nation’s veterans to breathe smoke-free air at all health facilities managed by the department. Eliminating designated smoking areas in DVA facilities will ensure thousands of veterans avoid exposure to the dangers of secondhand smoke while seeking the care they need. In addition to ensuring our veterans are breathing smoke-free air, the new directive also guarantees physicians, nurses, volunteers, and visitors will be working in, or visiting, a smoke-free environment.

    “We appreciate that the DVA’s updated policy will also prohibit the use of any e-cigarette that has not been approved by the FDA as a cessation device. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the aerosol from an e-cigarette is not harmless. It can contain harmful, and potentially harmful, chemicals including nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

    “Ensuring those who have served our country breathe clean, smoke-free air at health care facilities is something we owe our veterans. We must also continue our advocacy for other proven measures to end the scourge of tobacco product use for all communities. The most effective way to tackle the devastating public health effects of tobacco use is through significant tobacco tax increases, fully funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the state and federal level, and comprehensive smoke-free policies like those announced by the DVA."

  • ​Op-Ed by Gary Reedy on eliminating surprise colorectal cancer screening bills for seniors runs in USA Today

    ​On May 31, USA Today ran an opinion piece from American Cancer Society (ACS) and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) CEO Gary Reedy calling on the president and the administration to close a loophole that is resulting in surprise bills for seniors on Medicare. Read it here.

    Current law requires insurers to cover preventive services with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ rating from the United States Preventive Services Task Force with no cost sharing for patients. Colonoscopies get an ‘A’ rating for those aged 50 to 75. However, in Medicare if a pre-cancerous polyp is removed during the course of a routine screening colonoscopy, the test is being recoded from preventive to diagnostic and seniors are waking up to a bill in the hundreds of dollars. A third of seniors on Medicare are below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and unexpected bills are unaffordable.

    Patients have told ACS that the potential for a bill is causing them to delay or skip the lifesaving screening. An analysis done for the ACS CAN shows that up to 2,000 colorectal cancer cases could be avoided each year among seniors if Medicare were to make this change and treat screening colonoscopies when polyps are removed as a preventive service.

    The previous administration closed this loophole in private insurance. In the USA Today commentary, Gary calls on the president and current administration to fix the problem for seniors on Medicare. The fix has bipartisan support and the president has been on record declaring surprise billing is a top priority. 

  • Senate leaders introduce Tobacco 21 bill

    Both McConnell and Kaine represent tobacco-producing states

    On May 20, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation that would raise the federal age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21. The bipartisan Tobacco-Free Youth Act comes amid a public health crisis that has resulted in a 78% spike in youth use of e-cigarettes in recent years.

    Raising the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 is one of several important public policy changes Congress is considering in response to this crisis that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) supports. In recent months several lawmakers have brought forward similar bipartisan proposals that would also raise the federal age of sale of tobacco products to 21, as well as prohibit most flavored tobacco products, restrict advertising of tobacco products like e-cigarettes, and grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to collect user fees from all tobacco product manufacturers, including e-cigarette manufacturers.

    The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN:

    "Today's bipartisan action by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Kaine is another welcome indication that Congress is taking the alarming crisis of increased youth tobacco use seriously and is committed to taking action. Raising the federal age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 is one of several important federal policy changes necessary to ensure a new generation of Americans do not become addicted to the deadly products sold by the tobacco industry and face increased risk for tobacco-related cancers.

    "As this bill advances through the legislative process, it will be crucial that Leader McConnell and Sen. Kaine keep it free of provisions or carveouts that would benefit the tobacco industry. Any federal legislation that advances cannot preempt state or local governments from enacting and enforcing their own strong tobacco control laws, must cover all tobacco products currently on the market or that may be introduced to the market, and must not exempt anyone under the age of 21 from compliance.

    "We look forward to working with Majority Leader McConnell, Sen. Kaine and other lawmakers to pass strong tobacco control policies, including Tobacco 21 legislation. If passed, ACS CAN will work with states to make sure legislation raising the age of sale moves forward across the country without any additional policy changes that might negatively impact youth use. Together we can reverse this devastating youth tobacco use trend, protect our children from the dangers of tobacco and a lifelong nicotine addiction, and improve our nation's health."

    About ACS CAN
    The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society's nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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