This week, a Watertown woman was one of more than 700 cancer patients, survivors, volunteers and staff from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district gathered in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. Advocates urged Congress to take steps to make cancer a national priority and help end a disease that still kills more than 1,650 people a day in this country.
The American Cancer Society sent out the following information:
Rachel Laufersweiler from Watertown met with members of Massachusetts Congressional delegation to ask for support in three key areas in the cancer fight. They discussed the need to support an increase in federal funding for cancer research. She also asked them to advance legislation that works to improve patients’ quality of life and to support legislation that would close a loophole in Medicare that can result in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy.
Specifically, Laufersweiler and her fellow volunteers asked their Members of Congress to:
- Increase funding for research at the National Institutes of Health to $36 billion. None of us are more than one degree from someone with cancer – whether it’s a friend, family or ourselves directly. There is perhaps no better way for Congress to demonstrate support for the fight against cancer than by funding that fight. Over the last two years, Congress has demonstrated its commitment to the fight by passing the 21st Century Cures Act, funding the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, and increasing cancer research funding by a total of $740 million. However, talks of cutting funding for medical research have been prevalent this year and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be working on their respective budget bills this Fall. Now is not the time to turn back on progress made as we are at a point where advancements in research are saving more lives than ever.
- Support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act which will greatly improve the quality of life for cancer patients. From the very moment a person hears “you have cancer,” up until he or she reaches survivorship, they deal with pain, stress and treatment side effects. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an extra layer of support widely available to patients and their caregivers called palliative care. In addition to their curative treatment, patients can receive help from a team that often includes a palliative care specialist, a nurse, a social worker, a pharmacist and a psychologist to better coordinate their care and manage their symptoms. Studies have shown that patients who receive palliative care have better quality of life, they sometimes live longer and it saves the health system money by reducing the need for emergency room visits, hospital stays and intensive care.
- Support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States, yet it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer through routine screening. One of the biggest barriers to screening has been cost-sharing due to co-pays. Co-pays have been mostly eliminated in the private insurance market, but many Medicare patients can still get hit with a bill because of a rule that makes them pay if a polyp is found and removed during a colonoscopy, which changes the classification from a “screening” to a diagnostic procedure. ACS CAN wants to ensure that by the year 2018, at least 80 percent of eligible Americans are regularly screened for colorectal cancer and supports bipartisan legislation that would eliminate this cost-sharing glitch, allowing men and women to receive those screenings without waking from the procedure and facing an unexpected bill.
In addition, ACS CAN volunteers thanked members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who voted to protect their continued access to adequate and affordable health insurance during Congress’ seven-month deliberation of health reform. ACS CAN opposed repeal and replace legislation that would have allowed discrimination of against cancer patients and survivors for their pre-existing condition and would have resulted in millions of Americans losing their coverage.
“One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Their lives may depend on the decisions made by our lawmakers today,” said Marc Hymovitz, director of government relations for ACS CAN in Massachusetts. “We want Congress to know that volunteers from Massachusetts, and from every state across the country, are counting on them to take action now on funding cancer research and ensuring access to affordable and adequate health coverage.”
Before meeting with their legislators, cancer advocates attended training sessions on communicating with elected officials, conducting grassroots activities in their communities and engaging the media.
The ACS CAN Lobby Day culminated with an evening Lights of Hope ceremony in front of the Lincoln Memorial featuring more than 25,000 lights in honor of a cancer survivor or to memorialize a loved one lost to the disease.
ACS CAN is the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.