Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.


Our Nation's Health Depends on Access to Care: 10 Years of the ACA

March 23, 2020

Undoubtedly, our community is facing unprecedented times as we navigate the current coronavirus pandemic. As we always will, ACS CAN continues to support and advocate on behalf of people living with serious illnesses, like cancer, to ensure they have access to the care they need to protect their and their families’ health. Last week, we joined 28 other patient organizations to successfully work with Congress to pass legislation that would help protect vulnerable populations at heightened risk if infected with the novel coronavirus, by increasing federal support for Medicaid spending and extending no-cost testing to all patients, regardless of insurance type or status, among other vital steps; the bill passed out of the Senate and was signed into law by the president. We continue to urge the administration to repeal the recent block grant policy that encourages states to cap their Medicaid spending, as Medicaid programs can play a key role in states’ ability to effectively respond to the current pandemic.

In times of public health crises, ensuring people across the country have access to screening and treatment is of crucial importance. If there was ever a time to recognize the necessity of expanding access to meaningful health coverage, it’s now.

In a somewhat poignant reminder of that fact, today marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). March 23, 2010 was a transformative moment in not just health policy, but in the lives of the millions of Americans and their families who have since gained access to health coverage, including critical patient protections and essential health benefits.

Though opportunities remain to improve patients’ ability to afford and access their health care under the ACA, the provisions included in the health care law have had significant and lifesaving consequences for public health, particularly in our cancer fight. Numerous studies have documented the law’s benefits to our ability to prevent, detect and treat cancer, including improved cancer care and early diagnoses for young adult patients who are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance; and in Medicaid expansion states, patients are less likely to be uninsured and more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is less complicated and less expensive to treat. Importantly, Medicaid expansion has reduced racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparities in health insurance coverage for cancer care.

These benefits resulting from the enactment of the ACA are exemplified in Xenia, an ACS CAN volunteer and Ambassador Constituent Team! Lead (ACT Lead) for New York’s 12th congressional district. Xenia, who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2014, is, in her words, “reaping the benefits of the Affordable Care Act” and its patient protections. At the age of 38 and having battled cancer twice, she is eligible for insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion. Because of the enactment of the ACA, she doesn’t have to worry about being denied coverage for her pre-existing condition. This wouldn’t have been her reality 10 years ago, and as she says: “Continuity of care is so important, and I am able to have that because of the ACA and expansion of care through Medicaid.”

As we acknowledge the 10th anniversary of the ACA, we must also recognize that the preservation of this lifesaving progress is at constant risk. Ongoing regulatory, administrative and legal challenges threaten to greatly weaken or even invalidate the entire law. The health crisis we face today only further highlights the urgent need to protect and strengthen the most valuable provisions in the health care law.

Our ability to protect and sustain our country’s public health – and to achieve a world without cancer – wholly depends on maintaining and improving access to affordable, quality health care coverage. Especially in times of crisis, ACS CAN continues to fight every day, at every level of government, to ensure cancer patients, survivors and those at risk of the disease have access to quality health care.