Medicaid Block Grants Threaten Beneficiary Access to Cancer Care

Get Permission

ASCO has released a position statement, “Block Grants in Medicaid & Their Impact on Cancer Care,” summarizing the Society’s concerns about the potential negative impact that block grants—proposals that establish annual limits on federal funding for Medicaid—could have on patients with cancer.

“A transition to block grants could transform Medicaid from a safety net program, designed to meet basic health needs for low-income Americans, to a program with funding limits that drive care rationing for the most vulnerable,” said ASCO President Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO. “ASCO supports Medicaid reform, but such efforts …must allow individuals to have access to high-quality cancer care without interruption.”

ASCO’s statement makes the following recommendations: 

  • Congress should not enact a block grant structure for the Medicaid program, either as an optional demonstration program or as a permanent change to the program.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should not allow for states to apply for block grants through any of its existing regulatory authority and should not approve state waivers to establish block grants or enact lockout periods, lifetime limits, or the elimination of retroactive eligibility or mandatory work requirements on beneficiaries.
  • States should not seek waivers or other proposals that would establish federal block grant funding structures for their Medicaid programs, or otherwise seek to circumvent statutory obligations under the Social Security Act; instead, states should seek to take advantage of full Medicaid program expansion.

“Transforming Medicaid into a block grant program would jeopardize health and outcomes for people with cancer,” said Dr. Burris. “Furthermore, reducing access to care, such as recommended cancer screenings, could actually end up increasing the cost of care when patients present to providers with more complex, late-stage illnesses.” 

The position statement follows ASCO’s 2017 health-care reform principles, which state that Americans should have access to affordable and sufficient health-care coverage regardless of their income, and its 2014 policy statement on Medicaid reform, which calls for changes to ensure access to high-quality cancer care for low-income individuals.

For breaking cancer policy news, visit 

© 2020. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.