Advocacy in Action: July Summer Scoop


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

July started out with a bang – or more accurately many – with a four-day Fourth of July weekend for lots of people. One thing is for sure: even in this sticky July heat, advocacy doesn’t stop! Progress isn’t comfortable, but it is always worth it. Here’s what’s been heating up this summer.  

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Policy updates  

Braidwood v. Becerra & Access to Cancer Screenings

What’s this about? 
  • In Braidwood v. Becerra, plaintiffs are challenging portions of preventive care in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A Texas judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, which put preventive services, such as colorectal cancer screening, at risk. 
The update
  • The federal government and the plaintiffs in Braidwood v. Becerra reached a compromise placing a freeze on the initial ruling, meaning that employers and insurers must continue to fully cover preventive health services as outlined by the ACA. 
How this affects you, and why you should care. 
  • If the ACA preventive care requirement is overturned, patients will have to pay out-of-pocket for more than 100 preventive health services, including cancer screenings, that were covered and provided free of charge under the ACA.
What you can do. 
  • Fight CRC is closely monitoring this case. While there isn’t action to take right now, make sure you are signed up for our advocacy updates. There will be a long appeals process that will play out over the next several months (possibly years) eventually bring the case before the United States Supreme Court.   

UnitedHealthcare Colonoscopy Policy 

What’s this about? 
  • UnitedHealthcare had planned to implement a prior authorization policy on June 1 affecting non-screening colonoscopies, which could make these procedures delayed or denied. The good news is that they decided not to...for now.  
The update 
  • After announcing on June 1 that they would delay the implementation of the prior authorization program, UnitedHealthcare are now introducing an Advance Notification Program for non-screening GI procedures.  
How this affects you, and why you should care. 
  • For now, the prior authorization program is delayed, but it may be implemented in 2024 in conjunction with UnitedHealthcare’s Gold Program. If you have a provider that is not in the program (to give you an idea: UnitedHealthcare anticipates only 10% of their in-network providers will qualify), then both surveillance and diagnostic colonoscopies will require approval and could be denied.  
  • Your outreach to UnitedHealthcare made them take notice and delay this harmful policy! But we must keep up the fight to make sure that patients continue to have access to life-saving colorectal cancer screening.  
What you can do. 
  • Send an action alert to the CEO of UnitedHealthcare asking him not to implement prior authorization at any time. If you sent an action alert before June 1, send another one today! We’ve updated it so it reflects the Gold Program and reiterates that they should not implement a prior authorization policy.   

Nomination for Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

What’s this about? 
  • Norman E. (Ned) Sharpless, MD, stepped down as director of the NIH in April 2022. 
The update
  • In October 2022, Monica Bertagnolli began as the 16th director and first female director of the National Cancer Institute. In May 2023, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, was nominated by President Biden to lead the NIH as their new director. Fight CRC has signed several coalition letters to support her nomination and ask the U.S. Senate to confirm her as the next NIH director. 
How this affects you, and why you should care.
  • Dr. Bertagnolli was a surgical oncologist that specialized in treating gastrointestinal cancers. Not only is she a scientist, physician, and surgeon, but Dr. Bertagnolli is also a cancer survivor, all of which provide her with a deep insight into the needs of the cancer community.  
What you can do.
  • Take to social media and tag your Senators and ask them to support Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s confirmation as Director of the NIH.  

Update on Call-on Congress Asks 

What’s this about?
  • In March, advocates from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in Fight CRC’s Call-on Congress to meet with their members of Congress and advocate for the following policy priorities:  
    • Support $51 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP) in the FY24 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bills. 
    • Provide $20 Million to Create a Colorectal Cancer Research Program within the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). 
    • Ask your U.S. House Representative to be a champion for colorectal cancer and change the statistics around the disease by joining the Colorectal Cancer Caucus. 
The update
  • The House and Senate are still working their way through the appropriations process (remember – appropriations is the way Congress determines how it spends money), and it likely won’t be complete until the end of the year. Here’s where things stand: 
    • Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP)
      • The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are still working on the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill (where this program lives). Thanks to our amazing advocates for sending 230 emails in support of the CDC CRCCP!
    • Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) 
      • When we asked, you answered! Collectively your voices continue to be heard, and more than 400 emails have been sent in support of the CDMRP. The House has released their Defense Appropriations bill, and while we did not secure a standalone Colorectal Cancer Research Program, colorectal cancer remains in the Peer Review Cancer Research Program where impactful colorectal cancer research is being done. We expect to see the Senate bill in August.
    • Congressional Colorectal Cancer Caucus 
      • The Caucus held its first briefing for members of Congress and their staff focused on early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO-CRC) in May. The briefing featured a panel made up of survivors, gastroenterologists, and researchers to highlight the alarming rise of EAO-CRC in the United States, educate Congressional staffers about signs and symptoms, review current and upcoming research, and advocate for policy change to reduce colorectal cancer incidence rates and death. Members of Congress and their staff were deeply engaged in the conversation, and this will be the first of many events on Capitol Hill.  
      • Congressman Payne Jr. has created a CRC Caucus website where you can track members and CRC legislation. 
How this affects you, and why you should care.
  • We’re more than halfway through 2023, so we already know that heading into Call-on Congress 2024, we need to keep applying pressure for the Colorectal Cancer Control Program and for a Colorectal Cancer Research Program in the DoD’s CMDRP. The good news is our relentless champion of hope Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., is tenacious, and we can depend on him to spearhead and advocate colorectal cancer efforts.  
  • After Fight CRC advocates traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with their respective members of Congress, many Senators and Representatives signed letters of support for our policy asks or put in their own funding requests for CRC policies. But we need more! 
    • In the House: 
      • 57 representatives signed a letter in support of the CDC Colorectal Cancer Control Program (two more than last year!) 
      • 59 representatives signed a letter in support of the creation of a Colorectal Cancer Research Program within the Department of Defense (16 more than last year!) 
    • In the Senate:
      • 15 senators signed a letter in support of the CDC Colorectal Cancer Control Program (nine more than last year!) 
      • 14 senators signed a letter in support of the creation of a Colorectal Cancer Research Program within the Department of Defense (eight more than last year!) 
What you can do
  • Continue to build relationships with your elected officials year-round by sending emails to Congressional offices, attending local town hall meetings and events, and participating in Fight CRC action alerts and Call-on Congress. 

Policy watch 

The Fight CRC Advocacy team monitors policy and legislation that affects the colorectal cancer community. Listed below are just a few of the legislative policies that we are not only watching but are actively working on with our partners. 

Funding for Cancer Research and Prevention 

U.S. House of Representatives Proposed Budget 
  • Major cuts to cancer research and prevention funding may result from the budget caps in place for fiscal years 2024 and 2025. 
  • ACTION ALERT: Ask your members of Congress to oppose spending cuts and support an increase for lifesaving cancer research and prevention programs in the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills. 

Colorectal Cancer 

H.R.3382 / S.1894 – Colorectal Cancer Payment Fairness Act 
  • The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2020 removed cost sharing for Medicare patients who have polyps removed during a screening colonoscopy. However, the cost sharing is being phased out over a 10-year period. If passed, the Colorectal Cancer Payment Fairness Act would remove all cost sharing for procedures done during a screening colonoscopy by 2025, providing 100% coverage five years earlier than currently scheduled!  

Cancer Screening

H.R.2407 – Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act 
  • If passed, this bill would allow Medicare to provide coverage and payment for FDA approved multi-cancer early detection (MCED) screening tests. 

Genetic Testing 

H.R.1526 / S.765 – Reducing Hereditary Cancer Act 
  • If passed, this bill will provide Medicare coverage of germline mutation testing for people with a personal or family history of hereditary cancer, gene mutation, or suspected history of hereditary cancer, as well as for associated coverage of risk-reducing surgeries and screenings. 

Cancer Treatment 

S.2039 – Cancer Drug Parity Act 
  • If passed, this bill would direct health plans and insurers to have the same coverage and cost sharing for oral cancer drugs as they have for traditional intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. 

Cancer Survivorship 

H.R.4363 / S.2213 – Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act (CCSA)

If passed, this bill aims to improve cancer survivorship by addressing the health of cancer survivors and the unmet needs that survivors face through the entire continuum of care from diagnosis through post-treatment.    

Are you a Fight CRC advocate?  

If so, thank you! We are so glad for your relentless work for policy change. 

If not, as you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done in the colorectal cancer community. We would love your help pushing policy forward! If you don’t already receive our emails and alerts, be sure to sign up!  

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.   

Past Advocacy in Action blog posts 

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