Leading Cancer Advocacy Organization Urges North Carolina U.S. Senate Candidates to Make Fighting Cancer a National Priority

Cancer Patients and Survivors Meet Virtually with U.S. Senate Candidate Cal Cunningham as Part of National Voter Education Program to Discuss Cancer Issues

September 29, 2020

RALEIGH, NC — September 29, 2020— Cancer patients, survivors and volunteer advocates from across North Carolina met virtually this past Saturday morning with U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham to discuss policies and issues that are critical to fighting cancer.

The meeting was part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Cancer Votes campaign—the nation’s leading voter education program informing the public and candidates about the actions lawmakers should take to make fighting cancer a national priority.

The open dialogue between the candidate and ACS CAN volunteers also presented a special opportunity for cancer advocates to speak to the additional challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to cancer patients, survivors and their families as well as hear where Cal Cunningham stands on legislative issues specific to cancer. ACS CAN also issued an invitation to Sen. Tillis who met with volunteers the Saturday prior.

Each individual shared how they have been affected by health care policies in hopes of educating the candidate on key issues. Participants included and spoke to Cunningham about the following:

(5:58 – 7:57) Funding for cancer research

John Tramontin, ACS CAN State Lead Ambassador and past caregiver for his father who passed away from pancreatic cancer spoke to the importance of supporting cancer research and its impact on patients today and into the future.

Cal Cunningham shared his thoughts, “We have to treat it (winning the fight against cancer) as something that requires the nation’s response. Investment in science, investment in research, investment in public health – this is how we improve the quality of life of our people and is also how we beat unseen enemies whether they be a virus or a cancer.”

(8:08 - 12:10) Protecting people with pre-existing conditions should ACA be overturned

DonnaMarie Woodson, a colon and breast cancer survivor who benefited from the Affordable Care Act opened the floor for Cunningham to share his plan to protect cancer patients and those with pre-existing conditions should the act be overturned

Cal Cunningham shared his thoughts, “The importance of healthcare in this conversation -- in this campaign -- is the most frequently recurring conversation that I’m having. It was present in the minds of voters before March, but it is deeply urgent and your life experience is now a common life experience with hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”

“Every American needs quality, affordable care. I’m going to do everything that a Senator can do first to protect the Affordable Care Act and then build off of it by making sure that the consumer protections are there for people with pre-existing conditions. If we need to take legislative action after the court rules, you bet that I’m going to be sleeves rolled up doing exactly that.”

(12:15 –18:40) Medicaid expansion in North Carolina

Hananiel Setiawan, a doctoral student at Duke University studying biomedical research parents benefitted from insurance coverage received under Medicaid expansion

Cal Cunningham shared his thoughts, “As we sit here this afternoon, there about 1,300,000 North Carolinians right now that do not have a pathway to healthcare because they don’t have coverage.”

“I want to expand Medicaid, and frankly Han, a majority of Republican and Democrats in the legislature want to expand Medicaid. We know that it is popular, we know that it works, and when we expand Medicaid it closes a coverage gap, it actually brings down costs for all of those who are paying insurance premiums in the private markets. We may be paying up to 10 to 12 percent more in our private insurance markets in North Carolina because we have so many uninsured North Carolinians.”

“For those last 12 states – North Carolina among them – that we desperately need that coverage here in the midst of the pandemic, we should go back to 100% cost share. There has been bipartisan interest in that. I would be a champion for it and I am going to continue raise the importance of this.”

(18:45– 23:54) Rural healthcare

Rhonda Ferrell,
Warsaw resident and retired nurse who spoke to the challenges of accessing care in rural areas

Cal Cunningham shared his plans for addressing it, “The question you posed is important in healthcare, but also important generally in whether we’re going to build a country where our rural communities aren’t left behind and as we think about the needs our people have. This nation has a substantial amount of unmet infrastructure investment need, including in rural communities, and its about roads and bridges, but its also about schools, and medical facilities, and hospitals.”

“And then we also need to do things like, as I’ve proposed, strengthen the public interest loan forgiveness program so that those coming out of medical school can come to rural areas where they might be paid a little less than if they were working in downtown Raleigh or Durham or Chapel Hill, but because they are pursuing a public good -- which is extending healthcare into a rural community -- can help get their student loans forgiven after a number of years.”

“At the end of the day it also means recognizing that communities like yours, and the small town of Lexington where I grew up, are in many ways getting left behind and left out in the way in which we’re governing this nation.”

(24:04 -28:58) Equity in clinical trials

Cal Cunningham shared his thoughts, “At a time, when in the midst of this pandemic, we’re 22% African-American as a state but 40% of the diagnosis of COVID-19 are in the African-American community, we get to see lay bare the fact that not everyone has both access to the same care, but we also are in more vulnerable positions particularly people of color.”

“We have a history that includes racial and institutional barriers to progress that are rooted in race because of laws, policies, practices and even what’s in people’s hearts. One of the obstacles to progress today is that history first and second, and ignorance within our population about how we with intentionality invest and make sure that we overcome what brought us to this point. It is how we develop and deliver that more perfect union that we aspire to. It’s not going to happen if we don’t with some degree of thought address these inequities.”

ACS CAN is strictly non-partisan and does not endorse, oppose, or contribute to any candidate or political party. For more information, visit

To access the full recording of the conversation, click here.


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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