Cancer CANdor Blog
ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.
Commemorating a Decade of Judicial Advocacy
This month we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI). Through the program, law firms donate their services to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) to help advance our mission to reduce death and suffering from cancer. Participating lawyers provide pro bono expertise on a broad range of legal issues associated with cancer-related policy, from administrative law affecting how the government can regulate tobacco products to health privacy. Among other specialized services, JAI law firms have filed lawsuits to compel a federal agency to do its cancer control job, written amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) briefs to educate courts on science related to cancer patients, helped draft comments in complex regulatory actions affecting cancer care, and monitored legal decisions that could affect health insurance coverage.
To date, nine multi-national law firms – Anderson & Kreiger, Dentons, K&L Gates, Kilpatrick Townsend, Polsinelli, Sherman & Howard, Sher Tremonte, WilmerHale, and Zuckerman Spaeder – have donated approximately $2.5 million in services, for which we are deeply and continuously thankful. Through their pro bono work, these firms have offered incredible support to ACS CAN’s ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of cancer patients. In the past two years, JAI firms began representing ACS CAN as a plaintiff in cases, an effort that demands a significant time commitment. With the support of JAI law firms, ACS CAN has been able to adopt a leadership role among patient groups when evaluating and taking action in litigation that jeopardizes critical patient protections in the health insurance market.
In recognition of this meaningful anniversary, I want to share with you some of JAI's significant accomplishments over the past 10 years:
- Preserving the current health care law’s patient protections: JAI has provided essential support in helping to preserve the bans on pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime dollar limits on treatment, as well as discriminatory pricing against cancer survivors. In a series of legal challenges to the health care law. JAI attorneys drafted friend-of-the-court briefs for the American Cancer Society, ACS CAN and major public health partners providing the courts with critical data on the scientific link between health insurance coverage and medical outcomes. JAI attorneys also drafted comments to federal regulators on how to implement the law to ensure the agencies acted in the interests of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Just this past June, JAI supported ACS CAN and four other patient organizations in filing an amicus brief in Texas v. United States to urge the court to uphold the health care law, arguing that it fulfills Congress’s intent to improve access to affordable health coverage and providing data on how it has worked.
- Tobacco control regulation: JAI lawyers have filed two lawsuits for ACS CAN and seven other public health groups against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One lawsuit sought to compel the agency to issue a final rule requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packs and advertising as mandated by a 2009 federal law after excessive agency delay. Just last week, the judge found in our favor, and the FDA has already agreed to abide by the decision and expedite the rule! The second lawsuit challenges an FDA decision to essentially halt new product reviews of e-cigarettes and cigars, leaving an open field of unregulated products that continue to addict children to nicotine.
- Comments on balancing medical research and patient privacy: With assistance from JAI, ACS CAN has been able to submit multiple letters during rulemakings that affect the privacy of patient medical information balanced with the need for medical researchers to access data.
Since its inception 10 years ago, the JAI program has been a highly valuable asset to our advocacy efforts in the fight against cancer. Beyond the continued generosity of donated time and services, the JAI program adds specialized voices to our advocacy on behalf of cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. It’s no overstatement to say that the JAI program has elevated our capacity to advocate for and protect laws and policies that help people with cancer and their families. I am thankful for the past 10 years with this program, and look forward to what it will accomplish in the future.