2023 Virginia Session Summary

May 2, 2023

Victory in the fight against cancer requires bold new public policies that promote cancer prevention, early detection of cancer, expanded access to quality, affordable health care. Lawmakers make many decisions that impact the lives of Virginians touched by cancer and their leadership is vital to defeating this disease. In 2023, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) worked with the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Health, the Insurance Commissioner, and the Governor’s office in support of the following priorities:

Reducing the Toll of Tobacco

  • Cigar Tax: ACS CAN defeated a proposal from the cigar industry to reduce cigar tax rates from 20% to 10% of the manufacturers sales price with a maximum tax of 30 cents per cigar.  At a time when tobacco use is skyrocketing among youth, we should not be considering lowering the tax on any tobacco product, including cigars which nearly 5% of Virginia’s high schoolers already smoke. We issued an Action Alert to our volunteers who called and emailed the committee member urging them to table the bill, which they did.
  • Health Insurance Tobacco Surcharge: ACS CAN fought for two years to remove this provision which allowed insurance companies to charge higher premiums for people who use tobacco. Punitive measures like tobacco surcharges have not been proven effective in encouraging people who use tobacco to quit and reducing tobacco use. Instead, people who use tobacco may go without health insurance rather than paying the surcharge, leaving them without coverage for tobacco cessation treatment and without treatment for potential tobacco-related illnesses.
  • Tobacco Retailer Licensing: ACS CAN helped defeat a tobacco industry bill that would have had provisions related to retailers that sell e-cigarettes. The bill was sent to a summer study session where ACS CAN and all stakeholders can help craft a better bill that protects our youth from tobacco.


Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

  • Breast and Cervical Cancer: ACS CAN successfully advocated to protect funding ($405,000) for Every Women’s Life, the state breast and cervical cancer screening and early detection program for low-income uninsured and underinsured women administered by the Virginia Department of Health.


Quality of Life

  • Protecting Access to Pain Medication for Cancer Patients: ACS CAN monitored several legislative proposals and study groups regarding the prescribing of opioid pain medications and advocated for a balanced approach that promotes safe prescribing and dispensing of pain management medication that does not interfere with access to these medicines for the cancer patients and survivors who need them. ACS CAN was positioned as a resource in this debate.  


Ensuring Access to Quality Care

  • Medicaid: Several years ago, ACS CAN worked to pass Medicaid expansion in Virginia, becoming the first southern state to do so. Access to health care coverage is now provided to 400,000 low-income state residents through the state’s Medicaid program. Over the summer, the Health Insurance Reform Commission (HIRC) will be reviewing and developing benchmarks for health plans in Virginia These will set minimum benchmarks for healthcare plans for the next 5 years. This will be a top priority for ACSCAN this summer and fall 2023.
  • Catastrophic Health Insurance: ACS CAN helped defeat a bill that would have allowed Catastrophic Health Insurance in Virginia. These types of health insurance plans offer little protection to consumers and weaken the state healthcare system by syphoning off young, healthy people who would otherwise enroll in the state plan.


Cancer Research Funding

  • Research Appropriations: ACS CAN worked to protect cancer research funding appropriations to support scientific research on cutting-edge treatments at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and the University of Virginia’s Cancer Center. ACS CAN also supports the Cancer Caucus that provides a venue for cancer researchers to meet with legislators to discuss their cancer research appropriations and cancer related legislation.

For more information, contact: Brian Donohue, Virginia Government Relations Director ACS CAN

[email protected] (202) 617-4502

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard.