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Making Our Voices Heard: Capitol Hill Day 2019

March 20, 2019

The future of healthcare is at a crossroads. In the past year, the Trump Administration and Congress have made several proposals to address the rising costs of healthcare and drugs­, which have the potential to dramatically affect the landscape of cancer care. Now more than ever, the voices of professionals on the front lines of cancer care are crucial to shaping the direction of future legislation.

On March 20, ACCC members brought their expertise to the halls of Congress and shared their perspectives on recent legislative efforts, the impacts that federal policy has on cancer programs and practices in their home communities, and policy goals in more than 65 meetings with the offices of Representatives and Senators.
 Haskins RobayoCarolyn Haskins, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor at Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Fla. (left) meets with Maria Robayo, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL 14th District).

“Representing ACCC on Capitol Hill allowed for my voice as a genetic counselor—caring for oncology patients daily—to be heard,” says Carolyn Haskins, MS, CGC, of Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. “Additionally, I gained tremendous insight into the ever-evolving landscape of oncology care.”

Portman FriemelStuart Portman, Advisor, Health Policy for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), meets with Susannah Friemel, MD, oncologist at Iowa Cancer Specialists.

Capitol Hill Day was the first opportunity for ACCC members to meet with the 116th Congress, a diverse legislative class featuring more than 100 newly elected Representatives and 10 Senators. ACCC members arrived determined and ready to provide members of Congress with specific policy asks to address gaps in coverage for cancer care:

  • H.R. 1730/S.741, the Cancer Drug Parity Act, requires any health plan that covers chemotherapy to provide coverage for oral chemotherapy drugs at the same out-of-pocket cost as IV chemotherapy drugs. Originally introduced in 2017, the bill has gained traction in the House and has been reintroduced in both houses; ACCC members urged legislators to co-sponsor and champion this legislation, which is crucial to patient access to oral therapies.
  • H.R. 913, the Clinical Treatment Act , would guarantee coverage of routine participation costs in approved clinical trials for Medicaid enrollees with life-threatening conditions. Medicaid insures nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population and is the only major payer not required by federal law to provide coverage of the routine care costs of participation in an approved clinical trial for this patient population. ACCC Capitol Hill Day advocates asked their senators to support introduction of this legislation, and their representatives to sign on as co-sponsors.
  • ACCC recently responded to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s Request for Information (RFI) on the most pressing issues with the rising cost of healthcare and drugs. Our response was shared with every office visited on Capitol Hill Day—and many more in brief office drop-ins—and positions ACCC and its membership as a key resource for lawmakers as they prioritize legislation during the 116th Congress.

Left to right: Leigh Boehmer, PharmD, BCOP, ACCC Medical Director of Education; Tarry Mills Hodges, Director of Governmental Relations at St. Joseph’s/Candler, Savannah, Ga.; Michael L. Chou, Director of Operations at South Carolina Cancer Specialists, P.A., Hilton Head Island, S.C.; and Seth Ismail, Legislative Correspondent for Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC 6th District.)

The fact that Congress was not in session this week was not a deterrent to Capitol Hill Day participants—security lines were shorter, and meetings with legislative staff were productive, allowing more time for cancer team members to share their professional expertise and personal stories with lawmakers from around the country.

“I was pleasantly surprised how engaging and engaged the staffers were, which makes one hopeful that we have made a difference,” said Susannah Friemel, MD, of Iowa Cancer Specialists. “Going into the meeting, I thought it would be brief—a whirlwind of things happening—where in reality we met with committed individuals who never rushed us.”

Seetharam McBrideMahesh Seetharam, MD, FACP, oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, Ariz. (left), and Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCOP, Clinical Coordinator of Hematology/Oncology at The University of Arizona Cancer Center, after meeting with Sylvia Lee, Senior Policy Advisor to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

At a lunch in the Longworth House Office Building, Capitol Hill Day attendees heard from Dr. Robyn Stacy-Humphries, a radiation oncologist and cancer survivor. Dr. Stacy-Humphries personally attested to the importance of clinical trial access, as she participated in a trial for a CAR T-cell therapy.

Capitol Hill Day marks the kickoff of the ACCC 45th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit. Stay tuned to the ACCCBuzz blog for highlights from meeting sessions, and follow @ACCCBuzz on Twitter for real-time updates and insights.

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