Welcome to Advocacy in Action, our monthly blog where Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Advocacy Team discusses what’s happening in the advocacy world.  

What an exciting month June has been so far!  

You relentlessly raised your voice alongside the GI community to object to UnitedHealthcare’s prior authorization policy. Advocates sent almost 1,200 action alerts, as well as countless tweets and posts on social media demanding that UnitedHealthcare not implement a prior authorization program for GI procedures – the outcry could not be ignored.   

On June 1, the day the prior authorization program was supposed to take effect, UnitedHealthcare announced that they will delay the implementation of the program. We should all take a moment to celebrate the fact that our relentless efforts paused this terrible policy, but it’s not over yet.

In place of the prior authorization program UnitedHealthcare launched the Advance Notification Program for non-screening GI procedures. The program is voluntary, but GI physicians who do not participate will not be eligible for elite status in the Gold Program in 2024. Clinicians who participate must provide prior notice and extensive patient information before performing services, through the remainder of 2023. The good news is, claims will not be denied, even if UnitedHealthcare believes physicians are not following procedural guidelines. However, to say that UnitedHealthcare will not be implementing a prior authorization program would be disingenuous.   

UnitedHealthcare has only delayed and disguised their prior authorization program. In 2024, the insurer plans to launch the Gold Program, which grants eligible providers the ability to bypass the prior authorization system and follow a simple notification process for most procedures. Unfortunately, UnitedHealthcare anticipates only 10% of their in-network providers will qualify for the Gold Program. For the 90% of providers who do not have Gold status, they will be subject to the very same prior authorization program that was supposed to launch on June 1, 2023.  

Hope will never be silent 
Advocacy in Action
Colon holding hope megaphone

What this means for patients  

If you are a colorectal cancer survivor or even someone who has had polyps removed during a colonoscopy, in 2024, if your GI doctor is not a Gold Program member, your surveillance colonoscopy will be subject to prior authorization – causing delays or even resulting in a denial from UnitedHealthcare if they don’t think you need the procedure.   

Together, let’s continue to protect patients and fight to prevent policy change that is not in their best interest. We have UnitedHealthcare’s attention: Now let’s keep pressuring UnitedHealthcare to do the right thing. 

National Cancer Survivors Month

June is National Cancer Survivors Month. Thanks to advances in cancer research, there are currently about 1.4 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Advocacy plays a crucial role in contributing to the significance and impact of this important month. Here are 5 ways to engage in advocacy during National Cancer Survivors Month.  

5 ways to engage in advocacy during National Cancer Survivors Month

  1. Raise awareness about colorectal cancer. Whether you host a booth, a table, distribute educational material as a Resource Champion, or talk to a family, friends, neighbors or strangers, you are creating awareness, which is critical in the fight against colorectal cancer awareness.   
  1. Promote early detection and screening. In May 2021, the U.S. Preventive Task Force lowered the screening age from 50 to 45. Another way to advocate during National Cancer Survivors Month is to promote early detection and reinforce colorectal cancer screening. It doesn’t have to be a colonoscopy. At-home tests are also an option for some. Encourage people to be screened on time. Colorectal cancer may be preventable or more easily treatable when it is found early.  
  1. Provide support to survivors. Lending an ear is one of the most valuable ways to help survivors remember that no one fights alone. Join an online community, like Community of Champions, to support people who may be going through exactly what you went through. For ideas or ways to support survivors, think of things you would have appreciated during treatment, and then do exactly that for someone else.   
  1. Share your story. Following a diagnosis, the overload of information is overwhelming, but how comforting is it to scroll through social media and read a story just like yours? When you share your story, you share your experience as a Relentless Champion of Hope in the fight against colorectal cancer, and you inspire others.  
  1. Advocate for better health care policies and resources. Circling back to UnitedHealthcare – together, we did great work. We could not have accomplished this mission without our advocates. Together, we are stronger. We have to keep looking ahead and moving forward until we reach a Path to a Cure without colorectal cancer.    

Pro tips from our colorectal cancer advocates

"A couple weeks ago I met a lady when we were chatting about an issue with our city. We friended each other and because my social media page has a lot about colorectal cancer, she shared that she is a survivor. She shared that she was having issues with not making it to the restroom. I shared info on a medication I take. Her doctor prescribed it that day, and it worked so well for her she is able to do activities she couldn't just two days before. I have sent information on the different organizations to a couple newly diagnosed warriors. I put myself out there for anyone with any cancer, but especially colorectal cancer.”
–Kathi Heintzelman, stage III survivor

Kathi Heintzelman Advocacy in Action Strong Arm Selfie National Cancer Survivors Month
Caroline Maschke Advocacy in Action National Cancer Survivors Month

“I am the president of a high school club I created called Change for CRC. This past month, we’ve made 35 cards and baskets to deliver to the infusion center where my dad was treated. I have seen firsthand the support survivors and their families get when they are initially diagnosed, and while I’ll always appreciate that, I believe the most needed support comes during treatment. Chemo, radiation, and surgery can all be incredibly difficult on the body. Providing items to help survivors in the fight, getting treatment right now, is as important as supporting newly diagnosed patients.”
–Caroline Maschke, daughter of a stage III survivor   

“Making sure all cancer patients know they are survivors. Too many think you need to ring the bell or be NED to be a survivor. The moment you learn you have cancer, you become a survivor. Never discount yourself! I'm speaking from someone who discounted myself early on."  
–Tim McDonald, stage IV survivor

Tim McDonald Advocacy in Action
National Cancer Survivors Month

Register to become a Fight CRC Advocate

If you haven’t already, be sure to register to become a Fight CRC Advocate. We make it easy for you to help create policy change from the comfort of your home on your phone, laptop, or tablet. We send emails with action alerts, so you can be the change you wish to see.  

Advocacy is a year-round pursuit. We look forward to keeping you updated on ways to help throughout the year.  

Past Advocacy in Action blog posts

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