Television and Digital Ad Campaign Calls on HHS Secretary Azar to Stop Proposed Changes to ‘Six Protected Classes’

Cancer Survivors Express Concern at Dangerous Consequences of Proposed Changes to Medicare Part D Drug Benefit

May 14, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) launched an ad campaign this week highlighting deep concerns from cancer patients and survivors over the dangerous impact that proposed changes to Medicare Part D’s six protected classes could have on their access to critical drug therapies. The ads will run on television and social media and feature actual cancer survivors and Medicare beneficiaries urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to protect cancer patients’ lives by halting the proposed changes. The campaign premiered this week and will air during programs including “Meet the Press,” “Fox & Friends,” “CNN Newsroom” and “State of the Union,” in addition to running on Twitter. 

The ads feature childhood cancer survivor Mariah Forster Olson of La Crosse, WI, and breast and thyroid cancer survivor Jennifer Wall of Buckland, MA, both of whom rely on medications included in Medicare Part D’s six protected classes. Forster Olson and Wall share their concerns about the impact of these proposed changes on their ability to access and afford their prescriptions. Both Forster Olson and Wall received breakthrough therapies during their initial cancer treatments and fear that these proposed changes to the six protected classes, if finalized by the Administration, could significantly delay access to the types of innovative treatments that saved their lives.

"Protecting access to lifesaving treatments is paramount to ensure both current and future cancer patients and survivors receive the most effective and medically appropriate therapies,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “If finalized, these proposed changes could undermine health provider recommendations and create significant and potentially life-threatening delays in access to cutting-edge therapies that play a crucial role in cancer care.”

The six protected classes policy was established more than a decade ago to ensure Medicare beneficiaries were able to have access to innovative therapies. Medicare Part D plan sponsors are currently required to cover virtually all drug therapies in the designated six protected classes. In November 2018, HHS released a proposal to alter rules around Medicare Part D’s six protected classes and allow plan sponsors to use utilization management tools, including step therapy and prior authorization, to limit access to protected class drug therapies. ACS CAN recently released a nationwide survey of cancer patients, caregivers and doctors that details the negative effects insurance utilization management policies in private insurance have had on patient care.

“Imposing utilization management tools on Medicare Part D beneficiaries could delay a patient’s access to the most clinically appropriate drug therapies, potentially interrupting their recommended course of treatment and ability to manage their disease.” Lacasse said. “In the face of a new diagnosis or medical setback, cancer patients don’t have any time to waste. We strongly urge Secretary Azar to protect cancer patients’ lives and stop the proposed changes to Medicare Part D’s six protected classes.”

ACS CAN led nearly 60 patient and provider organizations in a print and digital ad campaign earlier this year to demonstrate the widespread opposition to policy changes that pose significant potential risk to patients with serious medical conditions, including cancer.

The new ad campaign is available 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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Media Contacts

Allison Miller
Director, Media Advocacy
Washington, D.C.
Alissa Crispino
Vice President, Media Advocacy & Communications
Washington, D.C.