ACS CAN calls for lawmakers to protect progress and continue improving access to care.
This Thursday, March 23, marks 13 years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law and cancer patients, survivors, and millions of others gained expanded access to comprehensive health coverage. The law, which put in place critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions and provided numerous benefits that have helped prevent, detect and treat cancer, has proven essential in lessening the overall cancer burden nationwide. It’s estimated nearly 35 million Americans have gained coverage because of the ACA since it took effect.
“Prior to the law’s passage, pre-existing conditions, regardless of how minor or how serious, often meant being blocked from accessing comprehensive, high quality health insurance when people needed it most, including for those with a cancer diagnosis,” said Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “As we mark the 13-year anniversary, the meaningful gains in early cancer detection and access to cancer care have been made clear. What we need now is for lawmakers to continue improving the law, expanding access to affordable care by removing short-term limited-duration plans from the market, closing the Medicaid coverage gap, addressing persisting affordability issues and ensuring all those who could benefit from the law do.”
Thirteen years after the law was signed, we continue to see the benefits of Medicaid expansion and the number of states passing this lifesaving legislation continues to increase, including North Carolina, which is expected to become the 40th state to increase access to Medicaid coverage soon.
“This commonsense policy not only makes it more possible for individuals to see a doctor when they need one, to get healthy and stay healthy, it also plays a critical role in reducing health disparities, especially cancer disparities,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN.
ACS research continues to show individuals who live in states that have expanded Medicaid are diagnosed with cancer at earlier stages and have better cancer outcomes — especially among minorities, patients living in high-poverty or rural areas. ACS CAN continues to advocate in the 10 remaining states to close the Medicaid coverage gap and to ensure no policies are enacted that would erect barriers to coverage, including work requirements that have not proven effective, lead to erroneous coverage losses and exacerbate racial disparities. Medicaid expansion, along with a number of other provisions that have made coverage more affordable, including expanded subsidies for marketplace plans, was instrumental in continuity of coverage during the pandemic.
Ensuring more individuals have access to coverage includes protecting ACA requirements in private plans. According to a recent analysis, about 60 of the 173 million people enrolled in private health coverage used at least one of the ACA’s no-cost preventive services in 2018. But a court case in Texas threatens this progress: Judge Reed O’Connor in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found that the requirement that ACA-compliant plans cover United States Preventive Services Task Force-recommended preventive care, including cancer screenings, is unconstitutional. ACS CAN joined together with the American Cancer Society and 14 other patient groups urging the Court to limit the reach of its decision to ensure these critical patient protections utilized by millions across the country stay in place.
Lastly, ACS CAN continues to call on the Biden Administration to propose a rule reigning in predatory junk insurance plans that offer minimal coverage and evade ACA-patient protections. These plans, which have proliferated since the previous administration changed rules that allowed them to expand their foothold, leave many individuals with minimal coverage when they need it — not to mention astronomical out-of-pocket costs.
“We have certainly made significant progress in improving access to cancer prevention and cancer care in the 13 years since the passage of the ACA, but we cannot rest on that progress alone and must continue to improve the system,” said Dr. Knudsen. “We need lawmakers on all levels to step up and do what’s necessary to ensure more cancer patients and survivors can get, keep, and afford the care they need to successfully live their lives. We will continue working with Congress and state and local lawmakers to strengthen and improve the law in the years to come.”
To learn more about ACS CAN’s to improve access to care, visit the Access to Care page on fightcancer.org.