Cancer Care and Research Advocates Return to Capitol Hill as Colleagues Across U.S. Send Nearly a Thousand Letters to Congress

May 5, 2023

Members of the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) converged on Capitol Hill on May 2 for the 2023 ASCO Advocacy Summit where they met face-to-face with lawmakers to discuss critical issues in cancer care and research. The summit was part of a broader Week of Action where advocates from across the country were encouraged to send nearly a thousand letters to Members of Congress through the ACT Network urging them to act on several key policy priorities, including:

  • Improving patient access to care by addressing prior authorization delays for essential medical services. More than 90% of respondents in a 2022 ASCO member survey reported that prior authorizations delayed treatment, delayed diagnostics, and forced the patient into a second-choice therapy.
  • Prohibiting copay accumulator programs, which often impact the most vulnerable patient populations, by requiring health plans to count the value of copay assistance payments toward a patient’s out-of-pocket costs.
  • Supporting cancer research and the National Cancer Plan by providing $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $9.988 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and $1.5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

During the Advocacy Summit, ASCO awarded Representative Suzan DelBene (D-Wash) the annual Congressional Champion for Cancer Care Award in recognition of her efforts to improve the quality of cancer care patients receive. In the previous Congress, Rep. DelBene was the lead sponsor of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act, which aimed to streamline prior authorization requirements within the Medicare Advantage program, and ultimately decrease the amount of time it takes for patients to receive the treatments they need. Throughout her career, Rep. DelBene has championed legislation that positively impacts patients, researchers, and oncologists.

ASCO also recognized Ashley Sumrall, MD, FACP, as the 2022 Advocate of the Year for her outstanding contributions to the Association’s advocacy efforts. Dr. Sumrall uses powerful storytelling to elevate the voices of her patients and make the issues affecting the oncology community accessible to lawmakers. In 2022, Dr. Sumrall sent letters to her lawmakers through the ACT Network, attended the Advocacy Summit, participated in federal agency meetings, engaged with colleagues and lawmakers on social media, and contributed to the ASCO Association PAC. Dr. Sumrall currently serves as Section Chief of Neuro-Oncology at the Levine Cancer Institute of Atrium Health and Clinical Associate Professor, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Section on Hematology and Oncology.

Advocates celebrated being back on the Hill by posting images, threads, and updates on social media to share their experiences, explain why these policy priorities matter to the cancer community, and make their voices heard on behalf of patients with cancer and their providers. Additionally, participants joined the ASCO Association PAC for its first in-person summit event with a breakfast featuring Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who provided insightful remarks about key health policy issues currently before Congress. The PAC surpassed its participation goal of receiving PAC contributions from at least 50% of the volunteers at the Summit.

It’s not too late to join in ASCO’s advocacy efforts! ASCO members in the U.S. are encouraged to send messages to their elected officials to urge them to support improved access to cancer care and research through the ACT Network all year long. ASCO members also can participate in ASCO’s Advocacy at Home program, a year-round initiative providing advocates opportunities to meet with lawmakers locally.

Bookmark ASCO in Action for breaking news, advocacy, and analysis on cancer policy.