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August Monthly Advocacy Update from Lisa Lacasse

Mark your calendars: Lights of Hope Across America takes place Sept. 18.

We ended July celebrating yet another significant victory in our ongoing work to increase access to quality, affordable health coverage: the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state must implement Medicaid expansion, finding a ballot initiative that voters approved last year was constitutional. More than 275,000 low-income individuals could gain access to affordable health coverage through expansion, making this a meaningful win for our cancer mission. ACS CAN has been a leading voice in this work including strongly advocating for the 2020 ballot measure and filing an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court.    

This victory was a fitting backdrop for an outstanding virtual event illustrating the importance of Medicaid expansion in our work to reduce health disparities. ACS CAN hosted Medicaid and Health Equity: 100 Years After the Tulsa Massacre on July 23, featuring community leaders, health care providers and historians from Tulsa, Oklahoma to share the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and explore the intersection of racial violence, systemic racism and health disparities. I highly encourage you to watch the recording.

 U.S. House Appropriations Committee Prioritizes Medical Research; Bill Lacks Adequate Funding for Critical Prevention Programs

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s proposed FY2022 spending bill included a $6.5 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, including a $432 million increase for the National Cancer Institute, and $3.5 billion to create the Advanced Research Project Agency on Health (ARPA-H) to accelerate the pace of biomedical research. We are pleased to see our ongoing efforts to increase funds for cancer research being heard by our members of Congress. 

However, the bill does not provide the funding needed for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program to meet critical increased demand for delayed screenings due to the pandemic and to serve all eligible individuals. ACS CAN urges Congress to pass a final bill that reflects the critical need for cancer research and prevention. Read our press statement her

Bill Introduced in U.S. House to Extend Medicaid Coverage in U.S. Territories

Bipartisan legislation has advanced in the U.S. House that would extend funding for Medicaid in the U.S. territories, funding that is set to expire on Sept. 30 if action is not taken. Long-term funding issues in the territories have threated access to health coverage and funding for health systems. ACS CAN will work with lawmakers to extend funding for lifesaving Medicaid programs in the U.S. territories before the September deadline. Read our press statement here.

 Making Equal Access to Cancer Clinical Trials a Reality for Black Patients

For the fourth year in a row, ACS CAN sponsored Urban One’s Engaging Black America special supplement, an annual publication shared with members of Congress. I was pleased to co-author an editorial piece in the supplement with Dr. Robert Carlson, CEO of National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and Dr. Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of National Minority Quality Forum, on the critical need to address the longstanding barriers to clinical trial participation for diverse populations, particularly Black Americans. Together, we call on Congress to pass legislation clarifying that trial sponsors can provide financial support to patients that offset non-medical out-of-pocket costs associated with clinical trial participation, such as transportation and lodging. Read our editorial here.  

ACS CAN Leads 28 Patient Advocacy Groups To Call for a National Paid Medical Leave Program

More than two dozen patient groups and partners, led by ACS CAN, are joining forces to call for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, including for caregivers. The groups want Congress to include a national paid leave program in the proposed upcoming human infrastructure package. This collaborative effort follows two years of research executed by ACS CAN to better understand how critical paid leave is to our cancer mission, by allowing patients and caregivers to keep their jobs, their health insurance and compliance with their treatment.

The groups sent a set of principles that any such national paid family and medical leave program must meet in order to best serve patients to Congressional leadership and the administration. We will urge lawmakers to support paid leave for people with medical conditions and their caregivers in the coming months. Read the principles here. 

Mark Your Calendars: Lights of Hope Across America on Sept. 18

We’re just six weeks away from our 11th annual Lights of Hope event! This year’s ceremony will again be shared in communities across the country as volunteers display tens of thousands of Lights of Hope at their home and in their neighborhoods. I hope you’ll join the livestreamed event at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 18. Last year’s event was a phenomenal success and I can’t wait to participate in this year’s celebration, broadcasting from Washington D.C. with our Board Chair, Sandy Cassese. 

If you haven’t already, please be sure to dedicate a Lights of Hope bag in honor of a loved one online.  This powerful nationwide display will show our elected officials how critical they are in the fight against cancer.   

 State and Local Advances

  • The step therapy reform bill passed in Arizona would ensure that patients receive timely consideration of their request to avoid step therapy protocols that require patients to first try less expensive, potentially less effective treatments before beginning the medication their doctor recommended. Once signed by the governor the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 
  • Our California team successfully led a coalition effort to stop legislation to allow marijuana cafes to serve food and beverages, which would have undermined the existing state smoke-free restaurant and bar law. 
  • ACS CAN thanked District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser for signing a bill that ends the sale of some flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and e-cigarettes. We now call for the bill to move swiftly through Congressional review and for the D.C. Council to fund this important legislation. 
  • In Georgia, ACS CAN is leading public health groups to urge the Augusta-Richmond County Commission to oppose a motion that would allow cigar smoking in certain indoor spaces. This loophole would roll back the existing smoke-free ordinance and jeopardize the health of residents and workers. 
  • In Louisiana, the Shreveport City Council reversed a vote to repeal its smoke-free bar and casino ordinance, meaning the ordinance will be implemented as planned on August 1. ACS CAN and our public health coalition partners provided testimony ahead of the vote and ACS CAN sent 400 calls into City Hall urging local elected officials to support the smoke-free law and put the health and safety of Shreveport workers first.
  • Maine Gov. Mills signed into law a bill requiring Medicaid coverage of palliative care.
  • The Massachusetts FY2022 budget includes a $500,000 increase for the state tobacco cessation and prevention program and a $200,000 increase for a prostate cancer research, education and awareness program. 
  • Oregon’s legislative session ended with the successful passage of a statewide Tobacco Retail Licensing provision. This was the seventh attempt to enact this law, which is vital to implementing the state’s new voter-approved tobacco tax increase and preventing the sale of tobacco to youth.
  • When the Tennessee Department of Heath initially indicated it would no longer promote HPV vaccination, ACS CAN and the American Cancer Society quickly urged – and we continue to do so – the importance of ensuring families have information about the importance of the vaccine and access to the vaccine itself to prevent several cancers in future generations.

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