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Monthly Advocacy Update - April 2021

​A message from Lisa Lacasse, ACS CAN president. Register now for upcoming virtual events.

Just like that, we’ve soared through the first quarter of 2021, which was packed with substantial legislative and regulatory wins at all levels of government related to our mission-critical areas of access to care, accelerating cures, and tobacco control. 

April brings many things to look forward to across our cancer advocacy agenda: our annual National Forum on the Future of Health Care, featuring key stakeholders from government, industry, and patient advocacy; Minority Health Month, with continued emphasis on public policies that address the health disparities too often experienced by medically underserved communities; and National Volunteer Week, which we’ll celebrate in a few weeks in recognition of our incredible network of ACS CAN volunteers – without whom we would not be able to influence public policy change. It is thanks to our powerful, nimble, and determined volunteer advocates that we are able to make a difference in the lives of so many cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones.  

Along those lines, I am delighted to extend my congratulations to the following volunteer awardees:

  • Dr. Bruce Waldholtz, ACS CAN Board member, was honored last month with the American Cancer Society’s 2020 Volunteer Leadership Award in recognition of his long and distinguished service to the Society. I invite you to watch this phenomenal video of Bruce being surprised with the award during a live TV interview. ACS CAN is so appreciative of volunteer leaders like Bruce, whose outstanding service drives our mission.  
  • Central to the continued success of our volunteer network is the strong partnership between volunteers and staff. Earlier this year, Alice Pomponio, former ACS CAN Board member who now serves as managing director of BrightEdge Ventures, and Shalini Vallabhan, ACS CAN strategic director, Advocacy Alliance Development, were honored with a 2020 Volunteer Staff Partnership Award for their collaborative leadership in successfully pivoting the ACS CAN Research Breakfast into a virtual event that raised an incredible $328,000, largely due their strategic stewardship and integrated marketing and communications plan. 

Lastly, I want to thank Gary Reedy ahead of his retirement at the end of this month for serving as CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN for the past six years. In the 20 years since Gary first joined ACS as a volunteer, he has been a steadfast supporter of ACS CAN’s advocacy efforts, serving on our Board of Directors and later taking the helm as chair. Evident in every capacity through which Gary has advanced our lifesaving mission is his commitment to improving equitable access to care, addressing disparities perpetuated by the burden of tobacco use, and elevating the voices of cancer patients in the halls of government nationwide. 

He has modeled for every staff and volunteer leader what it means to “walk the walk” in his dedication to inclusion, relevance, and achieving volunteer-driven impact. I am exceptionally grateful to Gary for his extraordinary leadership and unwavering commitment to our public policy advocacy mission.   

Celebrating ACS CAN's 20th Anniversary

To support our continued celebration of ACS CAN’s 20th year, I am pleased to share additional materials highlighting our organization’s tremendous impact in the fight against cancer, as well as a new landing page on our website to commemorate our anniversary:

New materials include:

  • Milestone Timeline sharing more than 50 public policy and grassroots advocacy highlights since 2001. 
  • Impact Infographic highlighting the significant influence our grassroots and mission efforts have had on the fight against cancer, available in English and Spanish.  

To access & download the materials, visit

 I hope you share my feeling of immense pride in the extraordinary impact ACS CAN’s public policy advocacy has had in reducing the cancer burden since 2001. Staff and volunteers are encouraged to share the landing page and materials with both new and potential volunteers, partners, and other stakeholders. 

Please contact Mariah Monks if you experience issues accessing the materials.  

RSVP: National Forum on the Future of Health Care 

ACS CAN’s 10th annual National Forum on the Future of Health Care will be held virtually and focus on Breaking Down Barriers to Care for All Cancer Patients. Leaders in industry, government, patient advocacy, research, and development will discuss new approaches to breaking down barriers that prevent cancer patients, particularly those who experience inequities in care, from fully accessing new and innovative screening, treatments and clinical trials. The virtual event will begin at 9 a.m. ET on Tuesday, April 27. We are pleased to welcome Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, who serves as the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Chair, as our keynote speaker. 

I always look forward to this annual event and hope you will join this important discussion.  Register here

11th Anniversary of Affordable Care Act, Congress and Administration Focus on Health Care Law 

March 23rd marked the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides critical patient protections and essential health benefits for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions like cancer. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on bills aimed at strengthening the ACA, including through funding for outreach and enrollment and patient navigators and encouraging Medicaid expansion. President Biden also announced a 3-month extension of the ACA special enrollment period, allowing individuals and families more time to find the health care coverage they need. Read more here. 

New Legislation Aims to Increase Coverage for Early Cancer Detection in Medicare

A bipartisan bill strongly supported by ACS CAN was re-introduced in the U.S. House to improve access to new and innovative cancer screenings among Medicare beneficiaries. The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would create a direct pathway for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to consider Medicare coverage of future FDA-approved multi-cancer screenings tests. Ensuring processes keep up with innovation is essential to timely patient access and continuing progress in the fight against cancer. Read our press statement here.

Last month ACS CAN joined with partners to host our Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act: An Informational Webinar for Stakeholders. Watch the recording here.

Concerns of Cancer Patients Were Heard; Proposed Changes to Medicare Drug Coverage Rejected   

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rejected proposed changes that would have allowed Medicare Part D plans to limit coverage of drugs within the “six protected classes,” potentially delaying cancer patients’ timely access to therapies. ACS CAN and more than 70 other patient organizations sent a letter urging CMS to halt the proposal and preserve patient access to the latest and most innovative treatments, continuing ACS CAN's strong leadership on this issue, including strategic volunteer engagement and direct lobbying. Read our press statement here.

Legislation Introduced That Would Increase Medicaid Enrollees’ Access to All FDA-approved Cessation Services   

New legislation introduced in the U.S. House would make permanent a change in Medicaid coverage for evidence-based tobacco cessation services that was implemented in 2020. ACS CAN has long advocated at the state and federal level to include coverage for all FDA-approved cessation services in state Medicaid plans. Medicaid enrollees smoke at more than twice the rate of adults on private health insurance. Read our press statement here. 

State & Local Advances   

  • ACS CAN and our public health partners opposed two Florida bills that would maintain harsh penalties strictly on youth for purchase, use, and possession (PUP) of tobacco products – which research shows is not a successful deterrent but inappropriately shifts blame onto kids and teens – and leave numerous tobacco products unregulated. We urge lawmakers to enact public policies that are proven to truly protect children from these dangerous products.  
  • During Hawaii’s virtual Cancer Action Day, cancer patients and survivors advocated to preserve funding for the state’s successful tobacco prevention and control programs. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would dismantle the program’s stable funding and put lifesaving tobacco control efforts at risk.   
  • After the Kentucky legislature passed a bill to remove the tax on some e-cigarette hardware when sold separately from e-cigarette liquid, making the products even more appealing to price-sensitive consumers, including youth, ACS CAN urged Gov. Beshear to veto the legislation and protect kids from a lifelong addiction to tobacco products 
  • The ACS CAN Michigan team was thrilled that the House passed legislation that would give chronically ill patients more affordable access to the cancer treatment they need by ensuring out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy and intravenous chemotherapy are similar. ACS CAN has advocated strongly for this legislation, which 43 other states have already passed.    
  • Montana public health advocates applauded the legislature’s decision to uphold the state’s longstanding Clean Indoor Air Act by tabling a bill that would have undermined existing smoke-free protections.  
  • ACS CAN seized on new momentum to expand Medicaid in Wyoming, activating almost 700 targeted calls to legislators, digital Facebook and Twitter ads, and placement of op-eds, letters to the editor and other earned media ahead of a key Senate vote, and sharing powerful video testimonies from Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, chair of the ASCO Board and member of the ACS, Inc. Board, and Dr. Banu Symington with the Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center, explaining why Medicaid expansion is critical in the fight against cancer. This strategic advocacy helped to influence the Wyoming House’s first-ever passage of legislation to increase access to Medicaid for thousands of low-income, uninsured residents. Although we are disappointed the bill ultimately didn’t make it out of the Senate, the substantial progress achieved this session positions us well for future efforts. The Wyoming legislature is considering adding Medicaid expansion's impact on the state budget as a topic for the interim legislative session, which could present an opportunity for future progress.     

RSVP: Upcoming Virtual Events   

Elevating Cancer Equity Hill Briefing 

Join ACS CAN, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) for a virtual congressional briefing on policy recommendations to address racial disparities in cancer care. Panelists will focus on policy action to support cancer prevention and screening, clinical trial access, and patient navigation to advance equity in cancer care outcomes. Rep. Robin Kelly will deliver opening remarks followed by a panel featuring: 

  • Shonta Chambers, Patient Advocate Foundation 
  • Dr. Robert Winn, VCU Massey Cancer Center, and ACS Inc. Board member 
  • Dr. Karen Winkfield, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance 

The event will be held next Thursday, April 15, at 10:30 a.m. ET. RSVP here by April 13.

Health Equity: Closing the Gap

ACS CAN is strongly committed to partnering with lawmakers, civic leaders and others to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to prevent, treat and survive cancer. I hope you’ll join our live virtual event to close out Minority Health Month, which will feature Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD, president of the Links, Incorporated, and member of the ACS CAN Board of Directors, discussing how to address and eliminate health disparities. The event will take place on April 27 at 7 p.m. ET. 

RSVP here. 

Recap: Recent Virtual Events   

ACS CAN Sponsors Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ Health Summit 

ACS CAN was proud to sponsor the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ Health Summit last month, which convened nonprofit and corporate leaders, subject matter experts and elected officials for bipartisan policy discussions about issues affect the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community. Devon Adams, ACS CAN senior analyst, Emerging Science, provided the cancer perspective in a panel on health equity and digital health during COVID-19, alongside Rep. Judy Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Watch the replay here.

ACS CAN Hosts Hill Briefing to Discuss COVID-19’s Impact on Cancer Screenings 

ACS CAN hosted an engaging virtual panel last month that featured multiple of our nation’s leading cancer experts discussing the pandemic’s short- and long-term impact on cancer screenings and treatment. Bill Cance, MD, our chief medical and scientific officer; Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Cancer Prevention and Control; and Ned Sharpless, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, each provided their unique perspective on the issue and shared what their respective organizations are doing to get screening rates back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond. We were also pleased to have Rep. Brian Higgins, a longtime champion of cancer issues and co-chair of the House Cancer Caucus, speak to the important role that members of Congress can and must play in advancing our cancer advocacy efforts.  

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