CANCER RESEARCH, PREVENTION & EARLY DETECTION
FY 18 Budget Affirms Medical Research and Cancer Prevention as Priorities
On March 23, Congress passed and the president signed a Fiscal Year 18 federal budget which includes; a $3 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the largest such funding increase in 15 years; a $275 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI); a $10 million increase for cancer prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and first-time funding of $15 million for the Oncology Center of Excellence at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The budget also increases funding for the CDC Office of Smoking and Health (OSH) and preserves the FDA's full regulatory authority over tobacco products. Funding to stabilize the individual insurance markets and reduce patient premiums was not included in the House budget.
Just three short years ago, ACS CAN launched the One Degree campaign to urge Congress to increase medical research funding at the NIH by $6 billion over two years, including $1 billion for cancer research at NCI. Passage of the FY18 budget made our campaign goal a reality with an historic increase for research funding.
Senate Passes Childhood Cancer Bill
On March 22, the Senate passed the Childhood Cancer STAR Act by unanimous consent. This bipartisan bill will advance pediatric cancer research and increase transparency and expertise for pediatric cancer research at the NIH. Additionally, the legislation expands research into the long-term side effects of childhood cancer and its treatments.
From here, the STAR Act moves on to the House, where it already has 362 bipartisan cosponsors and strong support from the Energy and Commerce Committee. ACS CAN volunteers have been very active on this issue by engaging with their lawmakers through meetings, correspondence and social media.
ACS CAN Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing on Cancer Statistics
On March 14, ACS CAN hosted a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to an audience of over 70 staffers and colleagues to present the American Cancer Society's Cancer Facts and Figures report for 2018. The briefing was sponsored by Rep. Brian Higgins of New York, co-chair of the House Cancer Caucus, who also spoke about the importance of the work of the Society and the need for increases in federal funding for cancer research and prevention programs.
The briefing was presented by Dr. Otis Brawley, the Society's chief medical and scientific officer. Dr. Brawley provided an in depth look at cancer trends of the last century, both in diagnoses and mortality, and discussed disparities based on race, gender, age and physical location.
All attendees were given copies of the 2018 Facts and Figures report along with information regarding ACS CAN's 2018 federal priorities and other resources.
ACCESS TO CARE
Colorectal Cancer Advocate Hold Briefing on Capitol Hill
On March 20, ACS CAN and Fight Colorectal Cancer held a joint briefing and lobby day on Capitol Hill to draw attention to colorectal cancer and the role public policy plays in helping reduce the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. for men and women combined.
Advocates heard from a variety of speakers including several members of Congress, professional race car driver and colon cancer survivor Scott Lagasse, Jr., Dr. Mark Pochapin from the American College of Gastroenterology and Dr. Lisa Richardson from the CDC. Speakers discussed the progress made through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable's "80 percent by 2018" campaign—an effort of more than 1,500 organizations to raise age-appropriate colorectal screening rates to 80 percent and to substantially reduce colorectal cancer as a major public health problem.
Additionally, Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society, spoke about the importance of timely and affordable colorectal cancer screenings. As part of the lobby day, advocates participated in more than 200 legislative meetings and pressed lawmakers to take action on the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. ACS CAN and other members of the Colorectal Cancer Roundtable have worked to increase cosponsors of the legislation. There are currently 259 bipartisan House cosponsors of the bill and 42 in the Senate.
Right-to-Try Bill Passes U.S. House
On March 21, the U.S. House passed Right-to-Try legislation that would change the process for accessing experimental drugs without including necessary patient safeguards. This bill was opposed by ACS CAN and more than 80 other patient organizations, largely because it removes the FDA's ability to consult on drug dosing, scheduling, and administration, among other important safety measures on which the agency is uniquely qualified to advise.
ACS CAN will continue to engage on this bill as it moves to the Senate and will encourage lawmakers to reject the legislation in its current form.
ACS CAN Comments on Proposed Rule to Expand Association Health Plans
ACS CAN responded to the U.S. Department of Labor's proposed rule to expand access to Association Health Plans (AHPs). ACS CAN has opposed proposals that promote the growth of AHPs because the plans do not provide comprehensive coverage, could damage the non-AHP individual and small group markets, and inadequately address issues of plan solvency and regulatory oversight, especially in light of the long record of AHP fraud and solvency problems. In our comments we urged the Department of Labor not to finalize the proposed rule until the needs of the patient community have been met.
ACS CAN Submits Comments on Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans
ACS CAN filed comments in response to Medicare's draft Call Letter (sub-regulatory guidance to Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans). Our comments urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to encourage Medicare Advantage plans to waive beneficiary coinsurance responsibility in instances where a polyp is removed during a screening colonoscopy. We also filed comments regarding CMS' proposals to restrict opioids.
ACS CAN Comments on Alabama and Ohio 1115 Waivers
ACS CAN recently submitted comments to proposed 1115 waivers at the state level for both Alabama and Ohio's Medicaid programs. Both states seek approval from CMS to implement a work and community engagement requirement that would require certain enrollees to participate in work or community engagement activities to remain eligible for health care coverage through the Medicaid program. ACS CAN expressed concern that these policies, including the coverage lock-out periods for noncompliance, could disadvantage patients with serious illnesses and could limit enrollment and create significant barriers to care for low-income Alabamians and Ohioans managing complex chronic conditions, such as cancer.
Activities in the States
- In Florida, ACS CAN was successful in increasing the annual recurring allotted funding for breast and cervical cancer screening from $300,000 to $1.8 million.
- The Maine legislature successfully overrode Gov. Paul LePage's veto of an ACS CAN-supported law ensuring that regardless of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, Mainers with private health insurance will maintain 100 percent coverage for essential health benefits.
- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed legislation to create a pathway for the substitution of interchangeable biologic medicines with appropriate communication to patients and physicians. Biologic drugs are made from a living organism or its products and used in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer and other diseases.
ACS CAN is pleased that the fiscal year 2018 funding bill does not contain curbs on the U.S Food and Drug Administration's oversight authority, granted in the Tobacco Control Act, over all tobacco products. ACS CAN has worked for several years to defeat efforts by some members of Congress to exempt many cigars from FDA oversight and to undercut a significant regulatory review of many of the cigars and e-cigarettes which have come onto the market in recent years.
Additionally, a Congressional proposal to cut funding of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health by one-fourth was not included in the bill. Instead, the prevention and cessation efforts of the office will be funded with a $5 million increase over the funding level of last year, meaning that successful efforts such as the Tips from Former Smokers media campaign and quitline support will receive funding support for the balance of the current fiscal year.
Activities in the States
- In Florida, ACS CAN led a coalition effort to successfully prevent from moving forward a measure before the Constitution Revision Commission that likely would have reduced the state's tobacco counter-marketing expenditures significantly.
- In Massachusetts, the towns of East Longmeadow and Chicopee each raised the legal age for tobacco purchase to 21. This brings the total number of Massachusetts municipalities with Tobacco-21 laws to 171. The Chicopee ordinance goes into effect April 22, followed by the East Longmeadow law on July 1. Both measures were supported by ACS CAN.
- ACS CAN has agreed to endorse a Montana tobacco tax ballot initiative that, if successful, would raise the tax on cigarettes by $2 per pack; eliminate the 2019 sunset of Montana's Medicaid expansion; and provide a significant portion of the funding for the state Medicaid expansion match.
- In Oklahoma, the legislature adopted, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed, a tax package that included a one dollar per pack increase on cigarettes. The impact of this measure is estimated to reduce the number of tobacco-related deaths by 10,000, increase the number of adult smokers who quit by nearly 19,000, and increase by 17,000 the number of youths who kids never take up the habit. The tax increase will go into effect July 30.
- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a Tobacco Regulations Amendments bill that adds the local health department to the tobacco licensing process to ensure that proximity rules are properly enforced dictating where tobacco specialty shops can be legally located. The bill also gives local health departments the authority to enforce retail license violations.
- The Wyoming legislature increased the amount of funding for state prevention programs, including tobacco prevention, from $4 million to $5.5 million.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Activities in the States
- On March 29, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law an ACS CAN-sponsored palliative care bill. West Virginia became the 22nd state to pass palliative care legislation.
- The Wyoming legislature approved two years of funding for the Palliative Care Commission. The commission was created in legislation passed last year without an appropriation.