Cancer Patients, Survivors and Their Families Tell Congress the Time to Make Health Care More Affordable is PAST DUE!

Lawmakers can help ensure more people survive cancer by including several provisions to make health care more affordable in the upcoming reconciliation package

June 9, 2022

San Francisco, Calif. – American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers gathered today at the San Francisco Federal Building to kick off National Cancer Survivor Month with an important message to Congress: affordable cancer care is PAST DUE. 

“It is cause of moral outrage that more than half of cancer patients are forced to incur debt during their life-saving treatment. No one should be forced into poverty while fighting for his or her life. That is why, strengthened by your support and under the committed leadership of President Biden, the Congress is taking bipartisan action to beat cancer: delivering record research investments through the National Institutes of Health and funding a new cancer initiative, ARPA-H,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi –whose Office was in attendance – in a statement commending ACS CAN for its leadership in the fight for quality, affordable health care.

The group of cancer advocates urged lawmakers to help people better access affordable, quality health care by including the following provisions in the upcoming reconciliation package: extend the expansion of Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies, enact a cap on out-of-pocket costs for people with Medicare Part D plans and close the Medicaid coverage gap.

“Earlier in the COVID crisis, Congress passed legislation making it more affordable for more people to purchase private health insurance in the marketplace. That expansion is responsible for at least one million more Americans getting health coverage and more Americans than ever before being able to benefit from this assistance on the exchange,” said José Ramos, member of the ACS CAN Board of Directors.

“We urge congress to make these generous subsidies permanent so more people can access critical care. Health coverage is essential for COVID, for cancer and for everyone,” said Ramos.

Unlike people with other types of insurance, Medicare beneficiaries don’t have a yearly cap on the total amount they have to spend out of pocket on prescription drugs.  For cancer patients – particularly those taking new or specialized drug therapies – the cost of prescription drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year.

“With all the challenges we face while on our cancer journey, being able to pay for our medication should not be one of them,” said Bea Cardenas-Duncan, cancer survivor and ACS CAN ambassador. “Cancer patients and survivors who have Medicare need to know there is a limit on how much we will pay each year. Congress has the opportunity to provide some relief to the financial stress we experience by limiting the out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs to no more than $2,000 per year and allowing us to make payments throughout the year rather than all upfront.”

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, 38 states and the District of Columbia have expanded eligibility for Medicaid to all people in their states with low incomes. But 12 states still have not expanded their programs.

“Where an individual lives should not determine if they live. Today we are here to ensure our family and friends living in states throughout this nation have the same access we do. We want to ensure our family and friends can see a doctor, get cancer screenings, afford treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses. Unfortunately, 2.2 million people nationwide live somewhere where they don’t have access to quality, affordable coverage because their state hasn’t expanded Medicaid. Sixty percent of these individuals are people of color and research tells us this lack of coverage means they’re less likely to survive a diagnosis like cancer. That shouldn’t be okay with Congress – it’s certainly not okay with us. It is past time to address this injustice,” said Bob Gordon, project director of the California LGBT Tobacco Education Partnership and co-chair of the San Francisco Tobacco-Free Coalition, in a statement read by former Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society’s West Region David Veneziano.

Congress has the power to make health care more affordable for millions of Americans, including cancer patients, survivors, and their families by including several key health provisions in an upcoming budget reconciliation package. More on those provisions here. 

Cancer advocates outside the San Francisco Federal Building tell Congress affordable health care is past due.

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