More than 150 members of the Association of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the leading professional organization for oncology professionals, will meet with Members of Congress on Tuesday urging them to make cancer care a top priority.
“Lawmakers have a profound effect on cancer patients and their doctors. From funding the research that leads to new groundbreaking treatments, to ensuring those treatments are covered by insurance and accessible and affordable to patients; lawmakers play a pivotal role,” said ASCO Board Chair Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO.
The issues ASCO members are advocating for this year include:
- Improving patient’s timely access to care by addressing prior authorization delays for essential medical services. More than 90% of respondents to a 2022 ASCO member survey reported that prior authorizations delayed treatment, delayed diagnostics, and forced the patient into a second-choice therapy.
- Prohibiting copay accumulator programs by requiring health plans to count the value of copay assistance toward a patient’s out-of-pocket costs, which often impacts the most vulnerable patient populations.
- Increasing federal funding for cancer research, including $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $9.988 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and $1.5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).
“These meetings are very important to ensure that lawmakers hear directly from the people delivering the care and doing the research when passing health policy. Our members offer critical insights, and we want to build a trusted partnership to help inform policies that best address the needs of cancer patients and their families nationwide,” said Dr. Pierce.
As part of this effort, ASCO awarded Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, the annual Congressional Champion for Cancer Care Award in recognition of her efforts to improve the quality of cancer care patients receive. In the 117th Congress, Rep. DelBene was the lead sponsor of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act (H.R. 3173), which aimed to streamline the cumbersome prior authorization requirements within the Medicare Advantage program, ultimately decreasing the amount of time it takes for patients to receive their necessary treatment. Throughout her career, Rep. DelBene has championed legislation that positively impacts researchers, patients, and oncologists.
ASCO also recognized Ashley Sumrall, MD, FACP, as the 2022 Advocate of the Year for her outstanding contributions to ASCO’s advocacy efforts to improve cancer care and research. Dr. Sumrall uses powerful storytelling to raise the voices of her patients and make the issues affecting oncology accessible to lawmakers. In 2022, Dr. Sumrall sent letters to her lawmakers through the ASCO ACT Network, attended the 2022 Advocacy Summit, participated in federal agency meetings, engaged with colleagues and lawmakers on social media, and contributed to the ASCO Association PAC. Dr. Sumrall currently serves as Section Chief of Neuro-Oncology at the Levine Cancer Institute of Atrium Health and Clinical Associate Professor, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Hematology and Oncology.
"Ensuring cancer care in this country is the best it can be at every step of treatment, from prevention and early detection, all the way through to treatment and survivorship, is essential to everyone. Cancer professionals have a duty to elevate the voice of their patients and their profession through these meetings,” said Dr. Pierce. “We hope those views are reflected in this session and beyond and that Congress keeps cancer patients top of mind to so we can together defeat cancer.”