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Advocates ask lawmakers to end deaths from cervical cancer globally

Check out ACS CAN's new video on the issue

Twelve ACS CAN volunteers were on Capitol Hill on Feb. 11 to ask Congress to act to end deaths from cervical cancer globally. It is currently the primary cause of cancer-related death among women in 42 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

new video was launched yesterday on the ACS CAN website that highlights the issue.

Through dedicating a portion of U.S. global health funding to improve access to preventive vaccinations, screenings, and cervical cancer treatment in LMICs, eliminating deaths from cervical cancer can be realized. 

Last year ACS CAN released a report that takes an in-depth look at the growing burden of cervical cancer in LMICs. The report, shared with members of Congress, lays out the leading role the U.S. government could play, in coordination with other international efforts, in ending death from cervical cancer around the world.

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

“No woman has to die from cervical cancer. Tremendous progress has been made in the United States in the fight against this disease over the past 30 years, resulting in cervical cancer death rates dropping by more than 50 percent domestically. In contrast, incidence rates are exponentially higher in other areas around the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Today cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death for women in 42 countries. These high rates of cervical cancer around the globe clearly illustrate the need for timely action.

“ACS CAN is proud to be one of the leading advocacy organizations pushing for U.S.-led investment to end cervical cancer deaths globally. Congress has a significant role to play in the fight against cervical cancer and we hope lawmakers will continue to see the value in this vital campaign.”

Advocates targeted particular legislators because of their Committee assignments and role in Congress as leaders in matters of global health.  

  • ACS CAN: Administration's budget risks reversing progress against cancer

    The Administration's FY21 budget released this week contains significant cuts to health care programs. If implemented, the cuts could leave millions more Americans uninsured and unable to access comprehensive health coverage and stall medical research essential to preventing, detecting and treating cancer.

    The budget cuts funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3 billion, including a nearly $500 million cut for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and reduces cancer prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by almost $44 million while combining numerous chronic illness prevention programs—including the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH)—into one single program with no guarantee that tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives would continue. The budget also proposes eliminating the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) role regulating the tobacco industry instead replacing it with a new agency with a Senate-confirmed head within the Department of Health and Human Services.

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

    Access to Care

    “If implemented, the administration’s budget would leave millions more Americans unable to access comprehensive health care coverage whether that be through the private market with health care subsidies or through essential public programs such as Medicaid.

    “Medicaid serves as a safety-net for more than 2.3 million Americans with a history of cancer. Ensuring it is appropriately funded is critical for reducing the country’s cancer burden and saving lives through prevention, early detection and treatment.
    “The budget does offer some relief for seniors by capping out-of-pocket prescription costs for those on Medicare Part D and allowing some low-income enrollees to be spared cost-sharing on generic drugs. These would be welcome changes and could help enrollees better afford their care.


    “The proposed cuts to NIH and NCI funding included in this budget would squander years of renewed momentum and progress in advancing discovery in cancer and other chronic diseases.

    “These investments have long enjoyed strong bipartisan support and have led to incredible understanding in how to detect, diagnose and treat cancer that still claims the lives of more than 600,000 Americans each year.

    “The president has signaled his interest and desire for continued progress reducing cancer incidence and deaths. Increasing research investment—not cutting it—is indispensable to that effort. 


    “We know colorectal cancer can be prevented with regularly-scheduled screenings which is why we are pleased to see the budget includes a provision that would eliminate cost-sharing for seniors on Medicare who are hit with a surprise bill during a routine screening colonoscopy when a polyp is discovered and removed during the same procedure. However, those not yet on Medicare also need access to colonoscopies and other proven cancer screenings. Increased investment in CDC cancer control programs would accelerate our progress against the disease for everyone, while eliminating these programs and cutting funding will hurt low-income, underinsured Americans. 

    “Cutting the CDC’s chronic disease budget by 34% and eliminating specific funding for tobacco control programs threatens to substantially weaken, if not eliminate, vital efforts to reduce the number one preventable cause of cancer: tobacco. And the proposal to strip the FDA of its ability to regulate the tobacco industry amid an ongoing youth e-cigarette epidemic is shortsighted. Creating a new agency with politically appointed leadership would give the tobacco industry far too much influence over future tobacco regulation. 

  • ACS CAN commends House for voting to disapprove Medicaid Block Grant guidance

    Concerns persist about access issues

    On the evening of Feb. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives cast a vote of disapproval of guidance that would fundamentally alter the Medicaid program. 

    The Medicaid Healthy Adult Opportunity, or block grant, guidance released one week ago would allow states to shift how they receive federal funding from a percentage match, wherein the program’s funding adjusts automatically to account for the number of enrollees and rising health care costs, to one where funding could be capped. These grants would apply specifically to the Medicaid expansion population and optional adult populations.

    Medicaid is the primary health insurance for nearly 65 million people, 2 million of whom have a history of cancer and an estimated 500,000 who gained coverage through expansion.

    The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

    “As the block grant guidance has the potential to significantly reduce access to comprehensive health care for low-income cancer patients, survivors, and their families in states that choose to apply, we commend the House for expressing disapproval.

    “Research shows that those that have access to insurance coverage have better health outcomes. Increased access to health insurance under Medicaid has helped increase cancer screening rates and improve health outcomes, and the block grant guidance risks reversing that important progress. 

    “On behalf of cancer patients, survivors and those at risk for being diagnosed, ACS CAN urges the Administration to rethink this troubling guidance and encourages states to strengthen their Medicaid programs, rather than seek ways to cut funding and by extension erect barriers to lifesaving health care.” 

  • Final film in ACS CAN's documentary series explores Medicaid coverage gap

    You can watch all three films online

    The final short film of an award-winning documentary series is giving an in-depth look into the lives of those who have Medicaid health insurance – and those who remain uninsured – in Left Behind: Health and Hope in North Carolina.

    The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) partnered with filmmaker Ky Dickens to produce the mini-documentary series. The final film highlights North Carolinians who fall in the “Medicaid coverage gap” – those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford quality health insurance. For the 59,620 North Carolinians who will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020, access to affordable, comprehensive care is essential to detecting, treating, and surviving the disease. 

    Left Behind: Health and Hope in North Carolina premiered January 30 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Following the screening, filmmaker Ky Dickens, film subject Richard Horodyski (pictured here), and oncologist Karen Winkfield, MD, participated in a panel discussion. Horodyski, a farmer, highlighted the burden of being uninsured, “Not having health insurance is a serious stressor for me. Shortly after filming, I fell with a chainsaw in my hand. Those are the things you think about when you don’t have insurance.”

    Dickens hopes the documentary will inspire change. 

    “I want to show that these are people who are doing everything right and they’re frustrated – and their scared that one medical bill is to break their entire livelihood,” she said. “My hope is that these stores can be the start of policy change.” 

    Both discussion and event were part of ACS CAN's Medicaid Covers US public education campaign, which creates open dialogue about the role Medicaid plays in communities. The previous film, On The Edge: Health Care in Alabama, focused on the health care challenges faced by rural Alabamians. The first film, Critical Condition: Stories of Health in the Heartland, captured the reality of thousands in Kansas trying to achieve affordable health care. It won several local film festival awards and was part of the April 2019 campaign launch

    The Medicaid Covers Us public education campaign is funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Those interested in watching the entire three-part documentary series or sharing with others can click here. For more information on the public education campaign, click here.  

    Congressional briefing on Feb. 6

    Improving access to health insurance coverage is a mission priority, and as part of the Medicaid Covers US project and ACS CAN’s ongoing Medicaid advocacy efforts, a congressional briefing will be held this Thursday, Feb. 6, in Washington DC. The briefing will focus on the Medicaid program’s impact on families, communities, and state and local economies. Visit ACS CAN’s Increased Access to Medicaid campaign page and Medicaid Covers US page to learn more about ACS CAN’s work on this issue.

  • ACS CAN: Caps on Medicaid would likely increase the number of uninsured

    Urges  the Administration to reverse course and maintain consistent and adequate funding for Medicaid

    On Jan. 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced guidance that would fundamentally alter the Medicaid program. 

    The guidance would allow states to shift how they receive federal funding from a percentage match, wherein the program’s funding adjusts automatically to account for the number of enrollees and rising health care costs, to one where funding could be capped. These grants would apply specifically to the Medicaid expansion population and optional adult populations. The change in funding structure has the potential to significantly reduce low-income cancer patients, survivors, and their families’ access to affordable, comprehensive health care in states that choose to apply.

    Medicaid is the primary health insurance for nearly 65 million people, 2 million of whom have a history of cancer and an estimated 500,000 who gained coverage through expansion.

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

    “If allowed to take effect, today’s guidance would fundamentally alter the Medicaid program for those who’ve gained much-needed coverage through the program’s expansion. Allowing states to change their funding formula from one that accounts for enrollment shifts and medical cost increases within this population to one that is comprised of a single lump sum grant has the potential to significantly undermine the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans, likely leaving millions of people uninsured and unable to access the care they need.

    “The limited funding that is inherent in an aggregate or per-capita cap could force states to implement enrollment freezes or waiting lists, deny certain medical benefits and services or increase cost-sharing for enrollees. For people with serious illnesses like cancer, these changes could reduce access to the care they need to manage their disease and put new treatments out of reach.

    “Additionally, cancer patients may find it especially challenging to get the prescriptions they need as this guidance allows states to severely restrict prescription drug coverage. Cancer is more than 200 different diseases and limiting prescription coverage could deny enrollees access to the physician-recommended medicine for their specific cancer.  

    “It could also leave people unable to access critical preventive and early detection services which could mean a later-stage diagnosis when treatment costs are higher, and survival is less likely. These changes are unlikely to reduce costs, but instead shift costs onto providers and health systems through uncompensated care and onto vulnerable patients who are among the least able to afford it.

    “Considering that more than two million cancer patients and survivors rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage, allowing states to drastically alter how this program is funded puts their access to health care at risk.

    “We strongly urge the administration to reverse course and maintain consistent and adequate funding for Medicaid as an essential high-quality health care program for so many of the country’s cancer patients, survivors, and all those at risk for the disease.”

  • ACS CAN reacts to Surgeon General's report on smoking cessation

    Report urges smokers to use proven cessation methods - not e-cigarettes

    A report on smoking cessation released Jan. 23 by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams concludes that comprehensive, barrier-free health coverage of tobacco cessation therapies and services is one of the most effective ways to continue to drive down the smoking rate and save lives. However, the report states that two-thirds of smokers who tried to quit in the last year did not use an evidence-based cessation service, and four out of nine adult smokers who saw a health professional did not receive advice to quit.

    The 700-page report provides in-depth evidence regarding the role smoking cessation plays in reducing the risk of developing many negative health effects, including several cancers and notes that successfully quitting smoking can add up to a decade to a person’s life expectancy. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and will account for upwards of 480,000 premature deaths this year. While the smoking rate continues to trend downward, an estimated 34.2 million adults still smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

    The report includes scientific evidence for interventions proven to increase smoking cessation at the individual, health system, and general population level. These include increasing access to, and knowledge of, FDA-approved cessation medications and counseling, regular and significant tax increases on tobacco products, the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free policies and fully funding tobacco control programs.

    Two “endgame” strategies that could further bolster tobacco cessation were also mentioned in the report: reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally addictive levels and restricting flavored tobacco products, including menthol.

    The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse (pictured here), president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

    “The Surgeon General report shows the vital role insurance coverage plays in reducing death and disease from tobacco use. Whether an individual is privately insured or enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, we must ensure people who want to quit smoking have barrier-free access to comprehensive cessation therapies and services to aid them in that effort. The report also clearly illustrates that these evidence-based services are grossly underutilized. We must work to increase knowledge of these services among both health care providers and patients. Too many people who want to quit are unaware that FDA-approved cessation therapies and services are available to them.

    “Surgeon General Adams also notes that coupling these FDA cessation strategies with population-based interventions like the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular increases in the price of tobacco products and fully funding tobacco control programs will be the most effective way to continue to decrease the smoking rate in the United States. Given the comprehensive conclusions included in today’s report, ACS CAN’s advocacy work at the local, state and federal level will continue to call for the implementation of proven policies that will achieve the public health goals laid out by Surgeon General Adams today.”

  • Supreme Court chooses not to expedite health care case

    Patient groups disappointed; decision leaves patients in limbo

    Patient and health advocacy groups representing millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions are disappointed over the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 21 decision not to immediately take up the case of Texas v. United States. 

    The groups, which include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, along with more than a dozen others, filed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court brief, last week urging the Court to review the case on an expedited basis citing the uncertainty patients would face with a prolonged delay should the case be left at the lower court level. The Court could still consider this latest challenge to the health care law through its regular process.

    Following is the groups’ joint statement:

    “The Court’s decision today will leave millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and those who rely on federal tax credits to obtain coverage unsure about their ability to keep or afford comprehensive health care coverage for months to come. Their uncertainty is rooted in the reality that without the protections of the Affordable Care Act, patients and survivors may once again be denied health coverage due to their health history or be priced out of the care they need entirely.

    “While the ultimate outcome of the lawsuit is uncertain, the connection between health coverage and health outcomes is clear. Access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance is essential to ensuring patients and their families can get the care they need when they need it and at a cost that reduces the economic strain.

    “On behalf of all the people we represent, we urge the Supreme Court to accept this case for review within its regular order and minimize the continued uncertainty for patients.”

  • FDA puts tobacco interests over kids

    E-cigarette flavor guidance won't address growing youth epidemic

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance on Jan. 2 that includes only a partial prohibition on flavors by allowing “vape shops” that sell open tank systems to continue to sell fruit, candy, mint, and menthol flavors that have hooked a new generation of tobacco users. 

    The guidance will also continue to allow the sale of menthol flavored e-cigarettes in all locations, abandoning previous commitments by the Administration to clear the market of all e-cigarette flavors in response to a growing epidemic of youth use.

    The guidance does not preempt strong, comprehensive state and local policies that regulate the sale of flavored tobacco products.

    Data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey show youth use of e-cigarettes in high schools skyrocketed, with a 135% increase over the past two years. Survey results also show that 27.5% of high school students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Nearly 64% used mint or menthol flavored e-cigarettes, only 2% less than fruit flavored products and significantly more than candy flavors.

    A statement from Gary Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), follows:

    “The FDA’s decision to abandon its announced plan to clear the marketplace of all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, is unconscionable. Instead of moving forward with an effective proposal that could have a meaningful effect in curbing the youth e-cigarette epidemic, we once again have a hollowed-out policy that will allow the tobacco industry to continue to attract kids to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

    “It is well-documented that the tobacco industry uses flavored products to target youth with more than 80% of teens who report using tobacco products having started with a flavored product. This guidance is yet another giveaway to the industry, which will continue to have unfettered access to market its addictive products at the expense of public health.

    “Vape shops and other retail stores are a source for e-cigarettes for youth. In fact, just last summer, the FDA issued more than 1,300 violations to retailers who sold e-cigarettes to minors. According to data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 14.8 percent of U.S. middle and high school e-cigarette users under 18 years of age reported obtaining e-cigarettes in the past 30 days from a vape shop or other store that sells e-cigarettes – more than the 8.4 percent who reported obtaining them from a gas station or convenience store. The federal government should not assume that retailers who only sell age-restricted products, like tobacco (or alcohol), are restricting who enters their store or effectively enforcing age of sale laws as evidenced by FDA’s warning letters. The FDA must hold retailers accountable by aggressively enforcing age restrictions to prevent youth access to these addictive products.

    “In the limited locations where most flavors will be prohibited, we will now have a situation that provides a path for more youth users to continue to use or migrate toward menthol flavored e-cigarettes. Menthol is a derivative of mint, and there is little difference between these flavors. With nearly 64% of youth e-cigarette users reporting use of mint or menthol flavored products, the decision to allow menthol to remain on the market without any semblance of agency review or oversight dramatically undermines the potential public health impact of this proposal. With mint and menthol already being some of the most popular flavor choices among youth users, there’s reason to believe the popularity of menthol will only continue to rise. 

    “The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network urges the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the FDA, to reconsider its finalized guidance and instead enact a comprehensive policy that will protect our children from the profit-driven tobacco industry by removing all flavored e-cigarettes from the market in order to improve the health of the nation. ACS CAN also calls on Congress to resist influence from the tobacco industry and prohibit all flavors in all tobacco products. ACS CAN will continue to advocate at the federal, state and local level, with a presence in all 50 states, to advance and implement effective tobacco control policies that make up for the shortcomings of this guidance.”

  • ACS CAN welcomes four new Board members

    Beginning January 1, 2020, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Board of Directors will welcome four new directors:

    • Philip R. O'Brien – Mr. O'Brien is an attorney and shareholder with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, S.C., in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He serves on the American Cancer Society Wisconsin State Leadership Board and previously served on the Midwest Division Board of Directors. He first became involved with the Society through Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign and has served as chair of the event since 2010. Mr. O'Brien currently serves as the ACT! Lead for the 4th Congressional District of Wisconsin. 
    • Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH – Dr. Plescia is the Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and provides medical leadership and expertise across the agency and oversees the portfolio of chronic disease prevention and control programs. He has served in public health leadership roles at the local, state, and federal level in North Carolina and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Plescia serves on the American Cancer Society's Mission Outcomes Committee and served on the former South Atlantic Division Board of Directors. 
    • Alice L. Pomponio – Ms. Pomponio serves as a strategic and operational advisor of Red Sky Partners LLC, and is the founder and managing director of Accendo Bio, an independent social innovation consulting practice aimed at accelerating innovative solutions to patient access, affordability, and adherence through enterprise formation, impact investment, and nonprofit strategic planning. She serves on the Eastern New England Area Board and led record-breaking fundraising efforts as the chair of the New England Research Breakfast since 2018. 
    • Jose R. Ramos, Jr. – Mr. Ramos is the Senior Director for Global Customer Acquisition in the Consumer Business Unit at Symantec, one of the world's leading cybersecurity companies. He has held numerous leadership roles in public and private companies, and his experience includes other management roles in technology, energy, and management consulting. He served as chair of the former California Division Board and has served in a variety of other roles, including as a legislative ambassador for ACS CAN, chair of Relay For Life, and as a State Lead Ambassador.

    The following ACS CAN Board members were elected to serve as officers for 2020:

    • Sandra Cassese, MSN, RN, CNS – Chair

    • Maureen Mann, MS, MBA, FACHE – Vice Chair

    • Bernard Jackvony, JD – Secretary

    • John J. Manna Jr., Esq. – Treasurer

    Finally, we want to recognize and thank John W. Hamilton, DDS, Robert E. Youle, and Daniel P. Heist, whose terms on the Board end December 31, 2019..

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