From April 12-16, U.S. members of the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) participated in the 2021 ASCO Advocacy Summit, where 148 advocates from 44 states and the District of Columbia held 222 virtual meetings – the most ever held during an Advocacy Summit – with Members of Congress and staff to urge action on important policies to improve access to high-quality, equitable care for people with cancer. To support these efforts, ASCO members from across the country sent nearly 600 letters through ASCO’s easy-to-use ACT Network urging them to take action on the same issues. Specifically, ASCO advocates urged lawmakers to:
- Improve telehealth availability by cosponsoring the Telehealth Modernization Act (H.R. 1332/S. 368), which would make permanent some of the flexibilities established during the pandemic to ensure that patients remain able to access telehealth services.
- Protect patients from harmful step therapy practices by supporting the Safe Step Act (H.R. 2163/ S. 464).
- Support cancer research by providing $46.11 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $7.61 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 and by supporting the RISE Act (H.R. 869/S. 289) to provide emergency funding to the NIH to mitigate disruptions caused by COVID-19.
During the Advocacy Summit, ASCO presented its annual Congressional Champion for Cancer Care Award to Senators Richard Burr (NC) and Ben Cardin (MD) in recognition of their ongoing commitment to legislation that improves the environment for cancer research, oncology practice, and the quality of care for patients. Senators Burr and Cardin jointly introduced the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act in the United States Senate and were instrumental in getting bipartisan support for the bill and securing its inclusion in the end-of-year legislative package that passed Congress in late 2020. Both Senators addressed ASCO advocates during the Summit and reiterated their ongoing support for patients with cancer and the oncology community.
ASCO also presented its Advocate of the Year Award to Jasmine Kamboj, MD, in recognition of her exceptional contributions to advocacy efforts to improve cancer care and research. Driven by her background in health equity, Dr. Kamboj urged her lawmakers to support the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act, the Cancer Drug Parity Act, COVID-19 relief bills, and the Safe Step Act. She met with all three of her elected officials as part of ASCO’s Advocacy at Home program, and attended ASCO’s 2020 Advocacy Summit, leveraging her expertise as an oncologist and a personal experience as a constituent to explain the importance of these policies to her lawmakers.
While advocates participated from their homes and offices rather than in person this year due to the ongoing public health emergency, participants posted images, videos, and updates on social media to share their experiences, explain why these bills are a priority for the cancer community, and make their voices heard on behalf of patients with cancer and their providers.
It’s not too late to join in ASCO’s advocacy efforts! ASCO members in the U.S. are still encouraged to send messages to their elected officials to urge them to support increased access to cancer care through the ASCO ACT Network. News, advocacy, and analysis on cancer policy are available on ASCO in Action.