Topeka, Kansas – Cancer patients, survivors and advocates from across the state gathered at the State Capitol on Wednesday to press lawmakers to address several critical issues affecting access to health care for tens of thousands of Kansans, particularly those in need of cancer screening and treatment. The meetings were part of Kansas Cancer Action Day, an annual event organized by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) to make fighting cancer a legislative priority.
ACS CAN volunteers urged their legislators to reject two bills (Senate Bill 199 and House Bill 2463) that threaten access to care and leave Kansans affected by cancer vulnerable to higher costs or barriers to needed screenings and treatments.
"We are deeply disappointed that legislators are prioritizing politics over the health of our family, friends and neighbors. Proposals to freeze changes to Medicaid -- and potentially limit access to cutting-edge screening and treatments – and to increase availability of inadequate health plans that often deny coverage of essential health benefits or charge higher premiums, could force cancer patients and survivors, as well as those with other complex chronic conditions, to delay, interrupt or forgo the care they need," said Megan Word, ACS CAN Kansas government relations director.
Cancer advocates also asked their lawmakers to take swift action on the current fiscal year funding loss for the Early Detection Works program, which provides lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women. In addition, they urged legislators to increase funding by $1 million to prevent the program from being suspended again.
"The Early Detection Works program simply saved my life. Funding for this program is critical to detecting and treating cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more effective and less expensive," said Stephanie Barr, Overland Park resident and ACS CAN volunteer. Barr was screened and diagnosed with breast cancer through the EDW program, which helped her enroll in KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
"Hearing the words, 'you have cancer' is scary enough but it’s even more terrifying when you don’t have health care coverage,” said Barr. “Access to affordable care is critical to ensure cancer patients get the care they need to have a fighting chance against the disease. Lawmakers know this is truly a matter of life or death for so many Kansans and must take appropriate action."
As in previous years, ACS CAN volunteers also advocated to broaden Kancare eligibility to allow up 150,000 uninsured Kansans to gain access to the coverage they need to prevent, detect and survive diseases such as cancer. A new survey by The Alliance for a Healthy Kansas finds that almost 8 in 10 Kansas voters from all political stripes support expanding KanCare, including 96% of Democrats, 76% of Independents and 65% of Republicans. Kansas is one of 12 states nationwide that has not expanded its Medicaid program.
"Kansans take care of one another and agree that their friends, neighbors, and community members deserve access to quality and affordable health care coverage. KanCare helps address health disparities by leveling the playing field, helping people of color and Kansans in rural and under-resourced communities access the care they need to get and stay healthy," said Word.
This year, 16,580 Kansans will be diagnosed with cancer and will begin their fight against the disease. For more information on how ACS CAN is advocating for cancer patients and survivors on the state and federal level or to learn more about how to get involved with our advocacy efforts visit FightCancer.org/KS.
About ACS CAN at 20
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that saves lives. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and made workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers and save more lives from cancer. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.