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Association Health Plan Rule likely to divide insurance market, strip patient protections

On June 19, the Department of Labor issued final rules governing the creation of association health plans (AHP).

Under the rule, AHPs would be exempt from current benefit and cost-sharing requirements. Such plans could, for example, exclude coverage for prescription drugs or other essential health benefits, cap coverage based on number of hospital days, and cover less than 60 percent of a patient's medical costs.

In addition, while the final rule prohibits AHPs from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, it does allow such plans to impose different rates on groups based on the age, gender, group size, and location of enrollees. It also allows an AHP that is formed on a geographic basis to exclude certain geographic areas from membership. These changes amount to discriminatory tactics and could have the same effect as considering someone's health history. 

A statement from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

"This rule will seriously erode the availability of affordable comprehensive coverage in most states' individual and small group markets that is critical to cancer patients and survivors. These products could leave gaps in coverage and could require patients pay very high out-of-pocket costs. AHPs will be able to design products that appeal only to young, healthy, low-risk enrollees, leaving older and sicker Americans to pay ever-increasing premiums for plans that meet their needs.

"These changes combined with the elimination of the individual mandate penalty and the proposal to extend and expand short-term policies will likely weaken and divide the insurance market to the point where those with any kind of health problems, especially a serious condition like cancer, will have few if any affordable options. 

"ACS CAN encourages states to take into account patient needs and move to protect and strengthen their insurance markets with state laws regulating these new and potentially damaging insurance products. ACS CAN stands ready to work with state lawmakers in this effort."




  • Gary Reedy participating in the Aspen Ideas Festival

    On Friday, June 22, our CEO Gary Reedy will be participating in three interactive discussions at the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight on Health. The festival is the nation's premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times.

    As part of the Spotlight Health section of the 10-day festival, Gary will be representing the patient perspective on a panel focusing on treatment innovation, affordability, and access. Over lunch, also on Friday, he will participate in a late-breaking session on a study released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting that says many women with early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemo. Later that afternoon, he will share how the Society is working to prevent cancer and increase access to cancer treatment in Africa.

    This event will be attended by many movers and shakers, and members of the media. Much of Gary's time will be spent connecting with leaders in health, business, and philanthropy.  

    The opening three-day Spotlight Health section of the festival will feature 125 presenters, 80 sessions, and attract 1,500 attendees.

    Here are the descriptions of the morning and afternoon breakouts Gary will be participating in:

    America's Biopharmaceutical Companies Present: Breakthrough Medicine — How Can Patients Afford It?, 12:20 – 1:10 p.m. ET

    • Breakthrough medicines are revolutionizing how we fight disease, but patients won't be able to benefit from those treatments and cures if they can't afford them. Dealing with chronic and acute illness is hard enough – patients shouldn't also have to fight to secure the medicines they need. Hear creative thinkers advance their ideas for making innovative therapies more accessible to patients.

    Fighting Cancer in Africa, 5 – 5:50 p.m. ET

    • Cancer is on the rise in Africa, with the World Health Organization predicting that by 2020, it will take the lives of one million people a year across the continent. The most common forms of the disease in Africa -- breast, cervical and prostate cancers -- are also the most treatable, but drugs have been in scarce supply, and the price of treatment remains a huge obstacle. While cancer has not yet received the attention accorded to infectious disease, the first-ever cancer center has opened in Rwanda, the American Cancer Society is forging partnerships across Africa, and some pharmaceutical companies have begun to steeply discount their therapies. A commitment to saving lives is growing.

    Spotlight Health will be promoted on all of the major social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) leading up to and during the event, using the hashtag #SpotlightHealth. A very small number of sessions will be livestreamed, and all sessions will be audio recorded and posted to the Ideas Festival website a few weeks after the event.

    Listen to Gary's interview on Aspen Public Radio

    Leading up to the festival, public radio in Aspen is doing a six-part series on topics of global and domestic health. Gary was one of the guests. You can listen to his interview here.

     




  • South Region launches Texas HPV Coalition with more than 40 organizations to boost vaccination rates

    Last week, the American Cancer Society, along with more than 40 health organizations, including Texas Medical Association, UT System, Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, publicly launched the Texas HPV Coalition.

    The Coalition aims to reduce cancer-related deaths blamed on human papillomavirus (HPV) by increasing vaccination rates statewide. Texas ranks 47th out of 50 states for HPV vaccination rates among children ages 13-17, with only 33 percent of kids receiving this vaccine. 

    Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president, South Region, and Jaime Wesolowski, chair of the ACS South Texas Area Board and HPV cancer curvivor, were on hand to lead the press conference announcing this unprecedented statewide partnership. (Jeff is pictured in the top photo, at the podium.)

    As Jeff said, "The American Cancer Society can have a critical impact here in Texas. The state represents the single largest opportunity to raise HPV vaccination rates in this country. As the father of a daughter who is completing her HPV vaccine series this week, I hope that this Texas HPV Coalition can be part of the movement that could see a generation of HPV cancer-free adults." 

    Members of the Coalition are from diverse sectors across Texas including immunization, physicians, public health, academia, professional societies, cancer prevention and control organizations, industry, state and local agencies, and health systems.

    Through coordinated leadership, strategic planning, education, research, and collaboration the Coalition hopes to reach the Mission: HPV Cancer Free goal of an annual vaccination rate of 80 percent of 13-year-olds in the U.S. by 2026. 

    The coalition is the result of a 2017 meeting of Texas health organization leaders, organized by Greg Parkington, senior manager for State Health Systems. It grew into a full blown coalition with about 80 members and more than 40 organizations. 


  • Today is National Smoothie Day – your action requested!

    June 21, is #NationalSmoothieDay, and our social media channels will be linking to a video that shows viewers how to create a tasty, healthy shake at home, similar to the "Daily Warrior," a collaboratoin between Smoothie King and ACS. The drink can provide relief for cancer patients having trouble eating.

    Please like, share, and/or comment on the posts you see about this on our national Facebook and Twitter accounts.

    #DailyWarrior ia a great-tasting, high-calorie drink designed to help people who face challenges meeting their daily caloric and nutritional needs. It is featured on Smoothie King's "Wellness Blends" menu in its 800 stores. The ACS logo appears next to the product name, both in stores and online.

    #DailyWarrior is a 20-ounce, 660-calorie drink made with bananas, wild blueberries, dates, peanut butter, organic spinach, almonds, blueberry juice blend, and stevia plant-based sweetener. It can help deliver nutrients to many people undergoing cancer treatment who, for a variety of reasons, may have experienced weight loss, and for whom drinking calories may be easier than eating whole foods. 

  • New Partnership spreads best practices in cancer control to areas of need

    The American Cancer Society is partnering with Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) at the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine to further our efforts in disseminating cancer control best practices through an innovative model of tele-mentoring. 

    Project ECHO was developed by UNM in 2003 to create guided technology-enhanced practice to increase capacity of front-line health care teams, improve systems of care, and reduce disparities across the country. Currently, UNM is partnering with more than 175 health care organizations around the world to share medical knowledge and ensure all patients get the right care at the right time, every time.  

    As part of the Cancer Control Blueprint, ACS plans to pilot Project ECHO in two priority areas: lung cancer patient support and tobacco cessation for residents of public housing.  

    The hub-and-spoke model of Project ECHO brings together an interdisciplinary team of expert specialists and subject matter experts at a centralized location (hub), with clinicians and other healthcare professionals in community-based clinics and hospitals (spokes). The spokes in the model present current patient cases, and then get mentoring and feedback from the specialists, thus helping the patient's health care team find answers and increase knowledge for the other spokes. This continuing education leads to greater knowledge of, and adherence to, national best practices in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment, and increases access to high-quality care in underserved locations.

    Since the partnership agreement was signed, select ACS staff received training on the ECHO model, and an ACS ECHO Advisory Group is meeting regularly to develop recommendations and guidance on an implementation strategy for the organization. The Advisory Group is co-chaired by Sarah Shafir, MPH, strategic director of state and national systems, and Dawn Wiatrek, PhD, strategic director of cancer treatment access. The ACS is also building the information technology infrastructure for the two pilot projects.  

    The ACS Lung Cancer Patient Support ECHO, funded by a grant from the Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation, launched on May 31 with 10 cancer centers committed to identifying and presenting challenging real-world cases ranging from screening to survivorship that a team of more than 12 hub experts will review and provide feedback on. "It has been described as 'a virtual grand rounds' where the latest in treatment and patient care is provided together with virtual case-based learning," said Dawn.

    "We recognize that many health care professionals do not have access to the most up-to-date information in lung cancer survivorship, and need support and mentoring to implement best practices," said Kevin Oeffinger, MD, Duke Cancer Center, survivorship expert and lead facilitator for the ACS Lung Cancer Patient Support ECHO. "Further, lung cancer patients often face different and more complex challenges across the care continuum, requiring multidisciplinary coordinated care. The ECHO model supports the building of multidisciplinary cancer care teams to address these issues."

    "Implementing an ECHO clinic is a complex process, and many individuals and departments have worked to make this a reality," said Dawn. Special thanks go to: the Regional Hospital System Teams in the South, Southeast, and North Central Regions, who helped recruit participating cancer centers; the National Lung Cancer Roundtable, which helped identify subject matter experts; the ACS Studio; the ACS IT Department and team that helped troubleshoot issues during the live sessions; and the Cancer Control Patient and Caregiver Support Team, to name a few.  "Their ongoing efforts in prioritizing this work to ensure a successful launch are sincerely appreciated," said Dawn.

    With funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ACS will launch its second teleECHO clinic in early 2019 that will focus on increasing access to high-quality tobacco cessation services for residents of public housing. This pilot program in selected areas will serve as an important public health strategy as public housing agencies across the country prepare to go smoke-free July 30, 2018, to comply with the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Smoke-Free Public Housing rule. 

  • Check out our interactive caregiver guide, now on cancer.org

    The American Cancer Society has launched an online, interactive version of the Caregiver Resource Guide to help relieve the burden of cancer on caregivers and better prepare them to care for their loved ones and themselves. Caregiving 101 can be found at cancer.org/caregiverguide. (Don't look for a link to a document; what you see is the guide.)

    More than 15.5 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive in January 2016, and this number is projected to reach more than 20 million by January 1, 2026. As they battle this disease, they rely on their caregivers for support. If the cancer caregiver can find balance in their life and receive their own level of support, they can continue to provide quality assistance to the cancer patient. 

    Our new online guide provides caregivers with help anytime, anywhere. It provides information on cancer information, caregiver self-care, patient nutrition, coping, support groups, and much more, including an 18-question quiz to gauge a caregiver's stress level. 

    Feel free to share this guide with caregivers you know. 

  • The sun might feel good, but it's not safe. Here are tips for reducing your UV exposure

    The fact is, people who get a lot of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays are at greater risk for skin cancer. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays, but you don't have to avoid the sun completely. And, it would be unwise to stay inside if it would keep you from being active, because physical activity is important for good health. But getting too much sun can be harmful.

    Here are some good reminders to help you to limit your exposure to UV rays:

    • Wear sunscreen every day, as UV rays reach the ground all year, even on cloudy or hazy days, and can pass through windows. 
    • If you are going to be in the sun, "Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap." That's short for slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses. 
    • Choose sunscreens with "broad spectrum" protection that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancers, but UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging.
    • Make sure your sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Higher SPF numbers do mean more protection, but the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. No sunscreen protects you completely. 
    • For best results, reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating. Sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so you will need to put more on.
    • No sunscreens are waterproof or "sweatproof," and manufacturers are not allowed to claim that they are. If a product's front label makes claims of being water resistant, it must specify whether it lasts for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. 
    • Check the expiration date on the sunscreen to be sure it's still effective. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 to 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the sunscreen ingredients. Sunscreens that have been exposed to heat for long periods, such as if they were kept in a glove box or car trunk through the summer, may be less effective.
    • Always follow the label directions. Most recommend applying sunscreen generously. When putting it on, pay close attention to your face, ears, neck, arms, and any other areas not covered by clothing. If you're going to wear insect repellent or makeup, put the sunscreen on first. Ideally, about 1 ounce of sunscreen (about a shot glass or palmful) should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face of the average adult. 
    • Wear protective clothing. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors, and a tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through. Many companies now make clothing that's lightweight, comfortable, and protects against UV exposure even when wet. It tends to be more tightly woven, and some have special coatings to help absorb UV rays.
    • Wear a hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around because it protects areas that are often exposed to intense sun, such as the ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp. A dark, non-reflective underside to the brim can also help lower the amount of UV rays reaching the face from reflective surfaces such as water. 
    • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays to protect the delicate skin around the eyes, as well as the eyes themselves. Research has shown that long hours in the sun without protecting your eyes increase your chances of developing certain eye diseases. The ideal sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Before you buy, check the label to make sure they do. Labels that say "UV absorption up to 400 nm" or "Meets ANSI UV Requirements" mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. Those labeled "cosmetic" block about 70% of UV rays. If there is no label, don't assume the sunglasses provide any UV protection. Darker glasses are not necessarily better because UV protection comes from an invisible chemical in or applied to the lenses, not from the color or darkness of the lenses. 
    • Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from the sun using hats and protective clothing. Sunscreen may be used on small areas of exposed skin only if adequate clothing and shade are not available.

  • American Cancer Society launches campaign to eliminate cervical cancer

    The American Cancer Society is committing to work towards eliminating cervical cancer in the United States in the next 40 years by increasing HPV vaccination rates and continued screening. 

    To this end, ACS is launching Mission: HPV Cancer Free, a public health campaign to eliminate vaccine-preventable HPV cancers, starting with cervical cancer. The goal of the campaign is to have 80 percent of 13-year-old boys and girls in the U.S. fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by 2026—20 years after introduction of the first HPV vaccine.

    About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) each year. An estimated 80 percent of people will get HPV during their lives. While most HPV infections go away on their own without lasting health problems, there is no way to know if an infection will lead to cancer. HPV infection is known to cause six different types of cancer: cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and throat cancers.

    Each year in the U.S., about 31,500 men and women are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV. There is no treatment for HPV infection, but vaccination and screening can prevent most HPV-related cancers. 

    “If we can achieve sustained 80% HPV vaccination in pre-teen boys and girls, combined with continued screening and treatment for cervical pre-cancers, we could see the elimination of cervical cancer in the U.S. within 40 years,” said Richard C. Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “No cancer has been eliminated yet, but we believe if these conditions are met, the elimination of cervical cancer is a very real possibility.”

    The Mission: HPV Cancer Free campaign will build on the American Cancer Society’s extensive HPV vaccination work and will engage a national coalition of health care providers, federal and state governments, and other public and private entities to increase the availability and utilization of HPV vaccine.

    The American Cancer Society recommends that the 2-shot HPV vaccine series is best given to boys and girls at ages 11 or 12. HPV vaccination prevents an estimated 90% of HPV cancers when given at the recommended age, but cancer protection decreases as age at vaccination increases.

    “The American Cancer Society is determined to protect the future of every boy and girl by preventing six types of cancer with the HPV vaccine,” said Debbie Saslow, PhD, senior director of HPV and women’s cancers for ACS. “We have a historic opportunity and all we have to do is make sure the children in our lives are vaccinated and the women in our lives are screened.”

    Additional information about HPV-related cancers and ACS’s work to reduce them can be found at cancer.org/HPV


  • Our breast cancer book in Spanish is a finalist in the International Latino Book Awards

    Cáncer de Seno Claro y Sensillo, Segunda Edición (Breast Cancer Clear and Simple, Second Edition) by the Experts at the American Cancer Society is a finalist in the 2018 International Latino Book Awards. It is among three finalists in the Best Health Book category. Overall, there are 232 finalists this year in 93 categories.

    The Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization co-founded in 1997 to promote literacy in all forms. The winners will be announced on Sept. 8 during a ceremony at the Dominguez Ballroom at California State University Dominguez Hills, outside of Los Angeles.

    The American Cancer Society is the world's leading publisher of books on cancer. Winners of more than 100 awards, our books are sold in print and electronic formats through major retail booksellers and large retailers and to libraries and hospitals.

    Learn more about Cáncer de Seno Claro y Sensillo at cancer.org/books.

     


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