Cancer Policy Priorities Highlighted During 2018 ASCO Advocacy Summit

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More than 100 ASCO volunteers from across the country came to Capitol Hill on September 25–26 for the 2018 ASCO Advocacy Summit, where they urged Congress to act on major policy priorities to support cancer research and ensure access to high-quality care for the millions of people in the United States with cancer.

Specifically, ASCO volunteers asked members of Congress and their staffs to:

  • Support the Clinical Treatment Act, a bill recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require Medicaid plans to cover routine care costs associated with clinical trials participation for individuals with cancer;
  • Support the Restoring the Patient’s Voice Act, which will enact sensible guardrails to protect patients from payer step therapy practices. ASCO is also asking House lawmakers to sign a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asking for increased transparency around prior authorization practices by Medicare Advantage plans;
  • Pass a Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 spending bill that includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health and a commensurate increase for the National Cancer Institute. There has been bipartisan support for NIH funding over the past few years, including funding increases, but a continued investment in federally funded cancer research is needed to continue our nation’s progress against cancer.

In interviews conducted during the summit, ASCO volunteers spoke passionately about these issues and why it is so crucial for the oncology community to be vocal on Capitol Hill. Videos from the Summit can be watched on ASCO’s YouTube channel.

At a reception on Capitol Hill, ASCO presented its Congressional Leadership Award to Representative Kevin Yoder (KS-3) to recognize his commitment to advancing policies to support research and improve the practice environment for people with cancer. “Cancer knows no political parties or regional boundaries—it affects us all,” said Rep. Yoder in a news release. “For that reason, one of my top priorities since I have been in Congress is to ensure our researchers have every tool they need to find a cure for this deadly disease. I have made it a goal to double the National Institutes of Health’s funding over the next decade to save lives and dramatically reduce medical costs. Thank you to advocates from groups like ASCO who walk through my door to discuss our shared goals of increased NIH funding and eradicating this horrible disease.”

Seven other members of Congress also attended the reception, and many spoke about their own experiences with cancer. Lawmakers in attendance included Representative Chuck Fleischmann (TN-3), Representative Gene Green (TX-29), Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-13), Representative Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Representative Billy Long (MO-7), Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20), and Representative Fred Upton (MI-6).

During a breakfast meeting on the second day of the summit, Senator Bill Cassidy (LA) counseled ASCO advocates about the day’s Congressional meetings, saying, “When you go into these meetings, be a physician…bring the real-life story of -real-life patients and how these policies impact them. That is how public policy should be formed.”

ASCO also presented its Advocate of the Year Award to Ray D. Page, DO, PhD, FACOI, for his significant advocacy work on behalf of individuals living with cancer and their cancer care teams. 

“Ray never misses an opportunity to advocate on behalf of cancer care and our patients,” said Robin Zon, MD, FACP, Immediate Past Chair of ASCO’s Government Relations Committee. “Ray uniquely understands the important role oncology professionals play in shaping health-care policies that have a direct impact on our ability to provide high-quality cancer care for our patients.” 

ASCO also recognized other advocacy champions who have been exceptionally active in ASCO’s advocacy activities throughout the year.

ASCO members not attending the summit in person participated in a Virtual Hill Day by sending letters to their Congressional representatives urging them to take action on key cancer care issues. ASCO members can still use the ACT Network ( to send messages to their elected officials to encourage them to act on these priority issues.

Find photos and tweets from the summit by searching the hashtag #ASCOAdvocacySummit on Twitter. Stay connected to the latest news on policies affecting cancer research and care through ASCO in Action ( ■

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