Blog: Celebrating Five Years of Judicial Advocacy

August 30, 2013

This month ACS CAN is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI), a highly-successful program for which law firms donate their services to ACS CAN to help in the fight against cancer. We’ve been fortunate to have a number of volunteer attorneys contribute their expertise on a wide variety of issues. Four multi-national law firms – K&L GatesKilpatrick Townsend,McKenna, Long & Aldridge and Sherman & Howard – have donated more than $1 million in services to date, for which we are deeply thankful.

Through their pro-bono work, these firms have helped ACS CAN monitor court cases that could impact the wellbeing of cancer patients, write amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs that advocate for the interests of people with cancer, and navigate the thicket of regulations that can have an impact on how laws affecting cancer patients and survivors are implemented. In celebration of the anniversary, I want to share with you some of JAI’s accomplishments over the past five years:

  • Preserving the Affordable Care Act’s patient protections:JAI provided essential support in helping to preserve patient protections during legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). JAI attorneys drafted “friend-of-the-court” briefs from the Society, ACS CAN and major public health partners that emphasized the importance of scientific evidence linking health insurance coverage and cancer outcomes. The briefs, filed with several U.S. circuit courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme court, provided critical context for the necessity of access to adequate, affordable, available and administratively simple health coverage. JAI also offered critical assistance as ACS CAN submitted comments to federal regulators in the interest of implementing ACA provisions such as the ban pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime dollar limits on treatment.
  • Opposing employment discrimination:ACS CAN worked with JAI’s volunteer attorneys to comment on regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments, making ACS CAN the only cancer group that provided information to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in this area. The EEOC made clear in its final regulations that cancer would be considered a disability that would receive protection under the law. JAI also tracked employment discrimination against cancer survivors across the country, helping ACS CAN understand how and where discrimination takes place.
  • Patient participation in the drug approval process: With assistance from JAI, ACS CAN was able to champion language in the Prescription Drug User Fee Act that recognizes the value that patients bring to the drug review process. The Department of Health and Human Services will be implementing strategies to allow the Food and Drug Administration to better identify patients eligible to participate in appropriate agency proceedings.

As you can see, the JAI program has enriched our capacity to advocate for laws and policies that help people with cancer and their families. JAI has been a highly valuable program since its inception,  and I look forward to what it can accomplish over the next five years and beyond.