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15 groups urge Supreme Court to protect access to Medicaid

Oral arguments before the country's highest court are scheduled for March 29.

Fifteen groups representing patients, people with disabilities, and health care professionals filed an amicus curiae - or friend of the court - brief on Feb. 25, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect access to health coverage as it considers the validity of work and community engagement requirements in Medicaid. 

The groups, which include ACS CAN, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Hemophilia Federation of America, and The AIDS Institute, along with 10 others, cite the detrimental impacts these requirements would have on states’ most vulnerable residents.

To date, 12 states have been approved to implement such eligibility requirements in their Medicaid programs and several other states have similar applications pending. While lower courts had previously blocked work requirements ruling that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the previous administration, violated federal law by approving them, states have continued to pursue these barriers.

The groups issued the following joint statement:

“Medicaid is an essential source of health coverage for tens of millions of people nationwide, including millions with illnesses like cancer, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. This program allows people to manage those conditions, see a doctor when they are sick, get check-ups, buy medications, and go to the hospital. Adding burdensome, administrative reporting requirements related to work or community engagement would result in fewer individuals having access to this lifesaving program and force more state residents to go without health insurance altogether, widening health inequities and worsening health outcomes.

“Furthermore, stripping Medicaid enrollees of their health coverage will lead to greater costs for states both in administrative costs upfront and the costs associated with dis-enrolling and re-enrolling individuals.

“Work and community engagement requirements do not improve the Medicaid program nor increase access to health coverage for individuals when they need it most. At this critical time in our country’s history, as we battle a public health crisis that makes clear the importance of protecting access to care and reducing health disparities, we must work to make access to comprehensive health coverage easier, not erect barriers. We urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the lower courts’ rulings and strike down life-threatening work and community engagement requirements.”

The other 10 groups are: American College of Physicians, Cancer Support Community, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, March of Dimes, Mental Health America, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Patient Advocate Foundation, and The National Multiple Sclerosis Society.


  • ACS to launch Return to Screening initiative with support from Genentech

    Nationwide effort will aim to increase breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer screening rates.

    Later this year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) will kick off a nationwide Return to Screening initiative to encourage patients to resume appropriate cancer screening and follow-up care. 

    With the support of the campaign’s founding sponsor, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, ACS will lead a comprehensive and multi-sector national movement to dramatically and swiftly increase cancer screening rates to pre-pandemic levels. 

    This will include convening a national consortium of public health groups, professional organizations, patient advocacy groups, existing roundtables, businesses, government, and key individual leaders to improve screening rates for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers. The first meeting of the national consortium will be held on March 18, 2021. 

    The Return to Screening initiative will also support the development of regional and local consortia, materials for health care systems to utilize in improving screening rates, and state-based interventions to improve health equity in under-resourced communities. 

    Pandemic-related disruptions have already exacerbated existing disparities in cancer screening, and are likely to impact survival across groups of people who have systemically experienced social or economic obstacles to screening and care.   

    “We’re at a unique moment in history in the fight against cancer. What we do right now to combat the staggering declines in cancer screening rates that we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic will have reverberations for decades to come,” said William G. Cance, MD, chief medical officer of ACS. “To successfully meet, and even exceed, pre-pandemic screening rates will take a coordinated, multi-sector approach.” 

    “We recognized very quickly that one of the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis was fewer people were getting screened for cancer, which can lead to delays in diagnosis, treatment and, ultimately, a higher likelihood of disease progression and even death,” said Craig Eagle, MD, vice president of U.S. Medical Affairs Oncology at Genentech. “To address this growing health crisis, we are proud to partner with the American Cancer Society to support this critical initiative and encourage people to return to screening.” 

    Due to delays in screening for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers, many cancers could be going undiagnosed and untreated and may advance to later stages, which become harder to treat. ACS foresees that the pandemic-related reductions in health care access and cancer screening will result in a short-term drop in cancer diagnoses and a later corresponding increase in late-state diagnoses and potentially preventable deaths. 

    For more information about cancer screening, please visit cancer.org.


  • Cancer survivors worry about treatment disruptions

    A new ACS study reports that early in the 2020 pandemic in the U.S., one-third of cancer survivors worried about treatment and cancer care disruptions. 

    Using a mixed methods approach, investigators utilized survivors’ own words to more deeply describe their experiences and worries about the pandemic’s impact on their overall health. 

    The article, appearing in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, finds the impact of the pandemic on cancer survivors and the broader health care system is widespread and exacerbated by serious gaps in the health care system. 

    For this study, investigators led by Corinne Leach, MPH, MS, PhD, and colleagues, examined cancer survivor worries in relation to treatment, infection, and finances early in the U.S. pandemic. Data for this study came from a survey dated March 25 to April 8, 2020 from the 2019-2020 American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) Survivor Views Panel. 

    “This study demonstrates the importance of clear communication between healthcare providers and patients experiencing concerns and uncertainties that may affect mental health during the pandemic as the care provision landscape continues to change,” said Dr. Leach.  

    Key findings from this study include:

    • Many survivors experienced disruptions in health care treatments. 
    • 77% worried they are high risk for serious health impact and were concerned about ICU admission or death if infected with COVID-19. 
    • 27% worried the pandemic will make it hard to afford cancer care. Respondents shared concerns of deciding what would be most important in terms of having medicine or food. 
    • The fear of getting sick and uncertainty over just how worried survivors should be because of COVID was pervasive for cancer survivors, leading to reported self-induced measures to reduce their risk of infection, such as social distancing and mask wearing.
    • Many respondents described social isolation, including overall loneliness and feelings of being isolated due to social distancing, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    An unanticipated theme that emerged in the qualitative analyses was the concern expressed by survivors around the inability to bring a companion to in-person appointments. Although participants understood and respected the decision of healthcare systems to institute measures to protect staff and patients from COVID-19 infection, survivors seemed to be caught off-guard by the new rule, especially when receiving bad news, such as a cancer recurrence.

    Here are quotes from three of the 972 people surveyed:

    • “There is now SO MUCH MORE ANXIETY! I question everyone in my life in ways that I've never done before. No one comes in or out of my home. My husband (who works in a grocery store) moved out. I'm living in total isolation. Having to decide whether to move forward with treatment and risk contracting COVID-19 or stop treatment and let my cancer grow has been difficult. It's like trying to decide if I want to die by heart attack or stroke. There's no good option!” - 32-year-old female rectal cancer survivor in treatment
    • “I am incredibly worried to go out in public, even to my oncologist's office, in fear that if I am infected, I am at a higher risk for serious impact. I was scheduled to have an MRI next week as routine follow up, but was recommended to postpone it until May due to COVID-19.” - 32-year-old female lung cancer survivor
    • “My surgery is reconstruction. It's considered non-essential, but it is essential to me… I hate this COVID-19, its ruining everything for me. I was ready to move forward with surgery. I am disappointed they are postponing everything.” - 50-year-old breast cancer survivor

    “The delays and cancellations noted by cancer survivors in the survey highlight the need for policy interventions and new delivery models that make it safe for cancer patients to receive care, and the need for public policies that address the financial worries associated with the pandemic,” write the authors. 

    Those policies include increasing federal Medicaid funding to ensure people can get health coverage should they find themselves uninsured, continuing to offer and increase funding for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cancer screening programs, and providing $15 billion to NIH to restart stalled clinical trials.

    Article: Leach CR, Kirkland EG, Masters M, Sloan K, Rees-Punia E, Patel AV, Watson L. Cancer Survivor Worries about Treatment Disruption and Detrimental Health Outcomes due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2021.1888184.


  • New Society Keys planned

    Due to recent organizational changes, some Society Keys will be updated to align with our organizational structure. The updates will take place March 1-5. During that time, we are asking volunteers to refrain from processing batches using the Society Donations Batching (SDB) tool.

    Please reach out to your staff partner after March 8 to receive your event’s updated Society Key.

    If you have any questions, please contact your staff partner.

  • Voices from the Field: Why our mission matters now more than ever

    ​Please take a few minutes to watch this video, in which ACS staffer Carrie Franchi, associate director of Development in our North Central Region, shares the story of young Jake Pennar.

    It illustrates so powerfully why our mission matters, and why it is so important that ACS be able to restore its research funding to pre-COVID levels. 

    In 2020, ACS funded a little over $52.8 million in new grants, about half of what we usually fund in a year. We had to cancel the fall cycle last October, a devastating loss of scientific discovery and momentum, but unlike some organizations we did not pull back any funding that we had previously committed to.

    In 2021, we are hopeful that we will be able to invest $100 million in new extramural research grants. You can help, here.

  • March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

    Our focus is on getting people back to screening.

    Next month is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and our efforts to raise awareness about the importance of screening are more urgent than ever.  

    Far too many people remain unscreened, and this situation has been aggravated by the substantial decline in cancer screening resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Early projections suggest that these screening delays will lead not only to missed and advanced stage cancer diagnoses, but also to a rise in cancer-related deaths.   

    Screening disparities are already evident and, without deliberate focus, are likely to increase as a result of the pandemic.  

    What you should know about colorectal cancer (CRC) 

    In 2021, an estimated 149,500 people will be diagnosed and about 52,980 people will die of colorectal cancer. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. when men and women are combined.  

    Screening can help prevent colorectal cancer through the detection and removal of precancerous growths, and can detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment is usually less extensive and more successful. 

    What our screening guidelines recommend

    • For people at average risk for colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends starting regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam). Talk to your health care provider about which tests might be good options for you, and to your insurance provider about your coverage. No matter which test you choose, the most important thing is to get screened. 
    • If you’re in good health, you should continue regular screening through age 75. 
    • For people ages 76 through 85, talk with your health care provider about whether continuing to get screened is right for you. When deciding, take into account your own preferences, overall health, and past screening history. 
    • People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening. 

    Here’s how you can support our efforts this March:  

    1. If you’re 45 or older and at average risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about the screening test that’s right for you. 
    2. Share the American Cancer Society’s social media content on your local and/or regional pages. Our social team plans to post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on March 3, 17, and 24, so please like and share. 
    3. Make sure your friends and family know the importance of early detection of colorectal cancer. 

    Where to go for more information

    For more information, check out the following resources: 

    And, stay tuned for more details this spring on our return to screening campaign.  


  • Training opportunity for medical providers: Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors

    The American Cancer Society, with support from the Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has created a CME-accredited training simulation called Let’s Talk: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer Survivorship.

    The simulation is designed for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners.

    It offers a safe learning environment in which to practice effective communication techniques for discussions with cancer survivors around the sensitive topics of healthy eating, physical activity, and body weight. 

    The training provides personalized feedback on practice conversations so that healthcare professionals can assess their competency to lead similar conversations in real clinical interviews. 

    It is CME-accredited and approved for .5 CME credits for physicians and physician assistants and .5 CEU credits for nurses and nurse practitioners.

    How to sign up 

    Click here to access the free training, and feel free to share the training opportunity with your colleagues in the medical community.

    For questions, contact Kristen Sullivan or Gayle Bagley.

  • How we process donations is changing on Feb. 22

    Starting Feb. 22, volunteers should send donations to a new address for processing. 

    Starting Monday, February 22, all donations should be sent to a new address for processing, rather than to the Shared Services Business Center (SSBC) in Oklahoma City. The new address is:  

    Merkle Response Management Group 
    Attention: Mail Processing 
    100 Jamison Court 
    Hagerstown, MD 21740 

    The change applies to all donations mailed in with a managed opportunity pay slip or a Society Donations Batching (SDB) batch header.

    The impact will be minimal for most volunteers. Volunteers who process donations are asked to essentially follow the same procedures as before, and now send batched checks, credit card forms, and cash deposit slips to the new location.

    Action for volunteers: Discard any pre-printed UPS labels that include the old Oklahoma City address. Volunteers who work with a staff partner are asked to connect with that staff partner to request new labels. Volunteers who work on DIY Relay For Life events are asked to visit the Donation Processing Supply Request form to order new labels.

    Mail inadvertently sent to the old address will be forwarded to the correct address. 

    For questions about the changes to event mail donations processing, contact your staff partner or the DIY Relay team at rfldiy@cancer.org.


  • Feb. 22: Focus on Elevating Cancer Equity webinar

    Featured speakers include ACS Board member and ACS CAN president. Register now!

    The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) will host a webinar, Elevating Cancer Equity: Actionable Solutions to Reduce Racial Disparities in Guideline Adherent Cancer Care, on Monday, Feb. 22, at 12:30 p.m. ET. Register here.

    The webinar will focus on reducing racial disparities in cancer care. The co-chairs of the Elevating Cancer Equity Working Group, Shonta Chambers, executive vice president of the Patient Advocate Foundation, and Robert Winn, MD, director, Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and member of the ACS Board of Directors, will share policy and practice recommendations to influence meaningful change to reduce racial disparities in cancer care. 

    ACS Board Scientific Officer Carmen Guerra, MD, is also a member of the working group charged with developing these recommendations. ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse will also participate in the webinar, and will review recent polling that was completed with patients, caregivers, and oncologists.   

    Registration for the webinar is complimentary for non-industry health care professionals. Visit fightcancer.org to learn more about ACS CAN’s advocacy work on health equity.


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