15 Dec 2015 Cancer Legislation
Many laws exist to protect individuals coping with cancer, however, there is still more that can be done to improve patient care and protect patients with cancer. This is where advocacy comes into play. The following pieces of legislation are currently pending in Congress and are relevant to those coping with cancer, their caregivers, and their health care professionals.
The Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act (H.R. 2739/S. 1566), bipartisan legislation that would require private health insurance plans offering intravenous cancer drug benefits to provide parity, or equal coverage, for orally administered and self-injectable cancer drugs. The bill was introduced this summer but no other action has been taken in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
The Patients’ Access to Treatment Act (H.R. 1600) would establish limits on cost-sharing for health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs and use a formulary or other tiered cost-sharing structure. In other words, this bill would prohibit health insurance companies from charging consumers more for specialty drugs than for other prescription drugs. This bill was introduced in March 2015, but no action has been taken in the House of Representatives.
The 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6) would provide new funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This funding would allow these entities to addresses the issues around information blocking and working to improve the interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) and to support precision medicine and other areas to accelerate cures and improve cancer care. This bill has passed in the House of Representatives and is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act (H.R. 3381/S. 1883) would track childhood cancer incidence and improve survivors’ quality of life. The goal of the bill is to accelerate the development and availability of promising childhood cancer treatments. This bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate in July 2015 and has been referred to health subcommittees, but no other action has been taken.
The Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act (H.R. 2846) would provide coverage for cancer care planning and coordination under Medicare. This change would provide individuals with Medicare and their healthcare providers resources to ensure that a clear cancer care plan is developed and assessed throughout all cancer-related care. This bill was introduced to the House in June 2015 and no further action has been taken.
For more details about any of these bills, visit https://www.congress.gov/.
If you would like to get involved in advocacy but aren’t sure how, consider joining another organization’s efforts. For example, if you sign up for ASCO’s Act Network you will get alerts when cancer related legislation is being discussed or voted on in Congress and you are able to send messages using the pre-drafted editable alerts, find the contact information for your elected officials, see how your member of Congress votes on the key issues, and draft your own messages to email or send a letter to your member of Congress. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is another resource to help you participate in legislative advocacy. ACS provides pre-drafted messages that can be personalized for you to share with your government representatives.
Triage Cancer has an entire webpage dedicated to helping you engage in advocacy efforts and even includes the social media handles for several elected officials to make it easier to engage with your members of Congress online. Not sure how to use social media? Triage Cancer teamed up with Living Beyond Breast Cancer to provide a webinar on Twitter as An Advocacy Tool. We will also be hosting our very popular webinar on how to be an effective advocate in early 2016. Sign up for our newsletter for updates to our webinar schedule.
You can make a difference in the lives of those coping with cancer, so write an email, send a letter, make a phone call, or even tweet at your local officials and make your voice heard today!