In the final days of 2020, Congress passed and the President signed a large package of legislation that included funding for the federal government, COVID-19 relief measures, and a number of other related and unrelated policies, included the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act!
Over the holidays, we took some time to dig through the rest of the 5,000+ page bill, and while it didn’t include everything we would have hoped, there are a few other policies included that are wins for the cancer community!
The CLINICAL TREATMENT Act
The CLINICAL TREATMENT Act requires Medicaid to cover routine care costs for patients with life threatening conditions who enroll in clinical trials. Historically, this coverage has varied by state, effectively preventing Medicaid patients across the country the option of participating in clinical trials. The bill was championed in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and it was championed in the Senate by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
For many colorectal cancer patients, particularly those with late-stage colorectal cancer, there are fewer treatment options. Clinical trials represent a critical care option and the passage of this legislation helps ensure that routine care costs associated with clinical trials are not a barrier to enrollment for Medicaid patients.
The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act
The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act seeks to increase access to participation of communities that are traditionally underrepresented in federally-sponsored cancer clinical trials. The legislation directs the federal government to study policies that hinder or could encourage diverse participations in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials. The study will include recommended policy changes that would make it easier for patients from underrepresented communities to enroll in clinical trials.
The legislation was named after Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who died from cervical cancer and whose cells were taken without her knowledge or consent during her treatment. Since then, her cells have been used to develop treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as in the development of the polio vaccine.
Fight CRC research advocates had a chance to view HeLa cells under the microscope at a Research Advocacy Training and Support academy last year in San Francisco.” According to Wenora Johnson, a stage III survivor, “being able to view actual HeLa cells – for me was an opportunity of a lifetime as a Research Advocate.”
Permanent Extension of the Medical Expense Deduction
Also included in the end-of-the-year package was a permanent extension of the 7.5 percent threshold for the medical expense deduction. For many years, Americans with high healthcare costs have been able to deduct medical expenses from their taxes. Each year, approximately 4.4 million Americans use the medical expense deduction to help offset the costs of care, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, equipment, as well as certain long-term care service costs and long-term care insurance premiums.
The deduction needed to be renewed every couple of years and the threshold fluctuated based on the whims of that particular Congress. The current extension was set to expire on December 31, 2020. Now that the bill has been signed into law, those who use the deduction won’t have to worry about it being available or the threshold changing. With the added challenges of COVID-19, this policy is important now more than ever.
Fight CRC Federal Funding Priorities
We also saw increases to several of Fight CRC’s federal funding priorities.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received $42.934 billion, a $1.25 billion increase
- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) received $6.559 billion, a $119.5 million increase
- The Department of Defense (DoD) Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) received $115 million, a $5 million increase
- The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Colorectal Cancer Control Program received $43,294,000, which is level funding from last year
While we are grateful for these increases, more funding is needed to address the disruptions and challenges created by COVID-19. The FY22 funding process will start in early 2021 and we need YOU to raise your voice on behalf of the colorectal cancer community.
2020 was a tough year (to say the least), but it ended with some great wins for the colorectal cancer community and we hope you will join us in celebrating that!! The Fight CRC team is energized and excited for even more advocacy wins in 2021!
Are you ready to get started? Here’s a few things you can do:
- Help turn your state blue for colorectal cancer and request that your state declare March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!
- Sign up to get the latest information about our biggest advocacy event, Call-on Congress 2021 kicking off in March!
- Follow @FightCRC on social media and join the conversation around colorectal cancer advocacy and awareness.