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October Monthly Advocacy Update

A message from Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN.

This fall is shaping up to be one of the busiest legislative periods on Capitol Hill in recent memory, with robust and ongoing conversations among members of Congress and the Administration about the infrastructure and reconciliation packages currently under negotiation while the process of fiscal year 2022 appropriations is ongoing. It’s during pivotal times like this that the importance of ACS CAN’s role is most clear: to elevate the cancer patient perspective so our elected officials understand and consider the impact of their decision on cancer patients, survivors, and their families. ACS CAN advocates are fully engaged in these discussions to pursue numerous priority policy changes, as you’ll read below, including the critical need to create a health care coverage option for the millions of people in the coverage gap in the states that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs.

Thank you for your ongoing support of ACS CAN and our lifesaving mission.

U.S. House Committees Focus on Public Health with Increased Tobacco Tax, Greater Access to Affordable Health Care

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees passed legislation that would greatly improve public health. 

  • First was the inclusion of doubling of the federal cigarette tax, while creating a first-ever tax on e-cigarettes and creating tax parity on some additional tobacco products. This is estimated to reduce the number of adults who smoke by 1.1 million. As discussions continue on the reconciliation package, ACS CAN volunteers have sent more than 3.7K messages to Senators to date to help ensure the House measure is included in final package. 
  • Secondly, the Committees included a new health care coverage option that will address the insurance coverage gap created in those states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, make permanent increased tax credits for marketplace coverage, create a national paid family and medical leave program, and cap Medicare enrollees’ out-of-pocket drug costs. 

These bills are part of the larger reconciliation package Congress is currently considering. ACS CAN applauded the initial critical steps to address these important provisions that will impact our cancer mission and will continue to be working closely with both the House and the Senate, as well as the Administration, as they collectively determine the final framework for reconciliation and to pass the measures into law later this fall.  

Read our press statement here. 

Health Groups Urge FDA to Promptly Deny Marketing Applications for All Flavored E-cigarettes, Including Menthol

ACS CAN and other leading public health groups urged the FDA to expedite decisions on remaining marketing applications for e-cigarettes, and swiftly deny applications for all flavored e-cigarettes including menthol products. FDA failed to meet a court-ordered deadline last month, leaving harmful products on the market indefinitely that endanger youth and our public health. Overwhelming data demonstrates the negative impact these flavored products have had on public health and their role in the youth e-cigarette epidemic. New data from the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Use Survey released in the final week of September found more than 2 million middle and high school students report using e-cigarettes in 2021, 85% of whom say they used flavored e-cigarette products. These data show Big Tobacco is succeeding in addicting another generation to the harms of tobacco use. 

 Digital Advertising Campaigns Urge Support of Early Detection Bill, Highlight Importance of Medicaid Programs 

  • New Ads Calls on Congress to Support Legislation Aiming to Increase Early Cancer Detection

Graphical user interface, text, application    Description automatically generatedTo coincide with Leadership Summit & Lobby Day held the final days of September, ACS CAN launched new digital ads urging Congress to cosponsor the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, a bill that aims to improve access to innovative cancer screening among Medicare patients. The animated ads underscore the importance of early detection in the fight against cancer, and will run through this month in Washington, D.C., California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon. Read our press statement here. 

 ACS CAN Ads Feature Patients and Provider Stories Highlighting Critical Role of Medicaid 

Last week ACS CAN launched new digital ads through the Medicaid Covers US public education project. The ads feature stories of patients, survivors and health care providers who share how having access to care through Medicaid helps improve their health and create stronger communities, aiming to educate the public about the benefits of this lifesaving program. The ads, dually branded with ACS and ACS CAN logos, will run in Washington, D.C., Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. 

ACS CAN Calls for Strong Patient Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills

At the end of 2020, Congress passed major legislation to stop patients from receiving surprise medical bills, a win that ACS CAN strongly advocated for. As several federal agencies have worked to prepare for implementing the law on Jan. 1, 2022, ACS CAN has been actively involved to ensure that cancer patients and survivors are protected from receiving these bills – which penalize patients for receiving out-of-network care when they had no choice. ACS CAN submitted comments on the patient protections in the first interim final rule in September, and remains active in giving the agencies feedback as they continue to release more information. 

Read our comments here.  

State & Local Advances

  • The San Jose, CA, City Council voted to end the sale of many flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and cigarillos, becoming the largest city in the country to end the sale of menthol cigarettes. Shisha (a tobacco product smoked in a hookah or waterpipe), premium cigars and loose leaf tobacco were exempted. Five ACS CAN volunteers testified at the hearing; ACS CAN’s Facebook Live virtual rally reached an audience of nearly 15K; and news coverage, including on Spanish-language network Telemundo, made clear our commitment to advancing comprehensive tobacco control policies, of which eliminating all flavors from the market is a critical success factor.
  • Last Friday marked the beginning of Medicaid expansion in Missouri. In July, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state must move forward with implanting voter-approved Medicaid expansion. ACS CAN helped elevate the story of Amanda Reynolds who applied for the program and is looking forward to having access to consistent and affordable health care. 
  • After ACS CAN provided written comments at a hearing last fall, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services lowered the eligibility age for the state’s breast and cervical cancer screening program to 21 and eliminated an administrative hurdle some patients faced. 
  • More than 170,000 Oklahomans have enrolled in Medicaid following the passage of the 2020 ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, a campaign that ACS CAN successfully worked in coalition with partner groups to increase access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage. 
  • ACS CAN submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services noting our strong objection to Tennessee’s Medicaid waiver request, which would “block grant” the state’s TennCare program and severely limit federal funding to the state. This radical restructure of funding could risk thousands of cancer patients and survivors’ access to health coverage. 
  • ACS CAN united with other leading patient advocacy groups to launch a coalition to support Medicaid expansion to provide health care to more than 42,000 lower-income South Dakotans. South Dakota is one of the 12 states that has refused to increase access to health care through Medicaid expansion. 
  • A new law took effect Sept. 1 in Texas that  removes out-of-pocket costs for patients needing a colonoscopy following a non-invasive screening – the 6th state to do so. The legislation also covers coverage for colorectal cancer screenings for those ages 45 and older in accordance with USPSTF guidelines released this past May. ACS CAN Texas volunteers and staff advocated throughout the legislative session to secure this win. 

Replay: Recent Virtual Events 

  • Paid Family and Medical Leave

On September 14, the ACS CAN-led coalition Patients and Caregivers for Paid Leave hosted a congressional briefing highlighting patients, caregivers and experts and discussing why the establishment of a national paid family and medical leave program is critical to people with serious illnesses and health conditions and their caregivers. Without access to paid leave, patients and caregivers risk financial hardship or not getting the care they or their loved ones need. Watch the replay here. 

  • Medicaid in the US Territories

On September 30, ACS CAN hosted Medicaid in the US Territories: How Inequitable Funding Exacerbates Health Disparities, a virtual event exploring the role of Medicaid in addressing the health care needs of residents of the territories. Patients, providers and territorial leaders from Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands discussed the challenges caused by block granted Medicaid funding, and historical inequities in funding for health care in the territories. This was the fourth webinar in a series, to highlight the role of Medicaid and Health Equity, hosted by the ACS CAN Medicaid Covers US project. Watch the replay here

  • Biomarker Testing and Targeted Therapies

ACS CAN worked with diverse partners to develop model legislation, which Illinois recently became the first state in the nation to pass, to expand insurance coverage of guideline-indicated biomarker testing, which can lead to improved outcomes, survivorship, and quality of life for cancer patients. Recent education events hosted by ACS CAN Texas and Florida teams explore the promise of precision medicine in oncology and the importance of ensuring timely patient access to this innovation. Watch here.  

Advocacy in the News

CNN: FDA Takes More Time to Decide on E-cigarettes

New York Times: F.D.A. Delays Decision on Juul’s E-Cigarettes but Orders Others Off the Market

The Cancer Letter: The Cancer Patients’ Bill of Rights: Helping Cancer Care Find Its Way Again

The Post Newspaper, TX: State Law Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Takes Effect

St. Croix Source, USVI: Cancer Society Says Inequitable Medicaid Threatens Lives in the V.I.

KSTS-TV (Spanish), CA: A San Jose Mother Asks the City to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

KELO Radio, SD: South Dakota Medicaid Expansion

Corvallis Gazette, OR & 1 other: ACS Still Advocates for Cancer Patients

Washington Informer, DC: CBCF Panel Pushes Nationwide Policy for Paid Family Medical Leave

Mountain Xpress, NC: Letter: Pandemic intensifies need for Medicaid expansion

Santa Fe New Mexican, NM: New Mexico Lawmakers Eye Tobacco Tax Hike to Curb Use

Bangor Daily News, ME: Bangor Would Be First in Maine to Ban Flavored Tobacco Sales


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