Our Visit to Capitol Hill

The Komen National Advocacy Summit took place in D.C. March 8-10. Komen advocates asked for support on three specific issues.

1BREAST CANCER SCREENINGS

2RESEARCH

3CANCER COVERAGE PARITY ACT

The Komen National Advocacy Summit took place in Washington D.C. March 8 – 10.  The San Diego contingent was headed by Lizzie Wittig, director of grants & public policy for Susan G. Komen San Diego.  Hundreds of Komen advocates from across the country asked elected officials from both Congress and the Senate for support on three issues:

  1.  Breast Cancer Screenings:  Preserve women’s access to breast cancer screening by funding the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) at $275 million in the FY17 and FY18 budgets (which is the amount the program is authorized at but had never been funded at this level).
  2. Research:  Make biomedical research an unwavering national priority by increasing the investment to the National Institutes of Health in the FY17 and FY18 budgets.
  3.  Oral Parity Act:  Co-sponsor the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act.  Many insurance companies don’t pay for chemo drugs delivered through pill form.  This is wrong, and needs to change.

Federal Updates Since Our Visit to Capitol Hill

FY18 Budget Proposal

President Trump released his FY18 Budget Proposal which included a cut to the National Institutes of Health by about $6 billion (19 percent). If applied proportionally across the NIH, it would represent a cut of nearly $1 billion to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This cut would take NIH and NCI funding back down to FY 2002 levels, and when accounting for inflation would cut NIH back to FY 2000 spending levels.  We do not have funding details for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), but there is a proposal for a new $500 million block grant to increase State flexibility and focus on the leading public health challenges specific to each State. It is unclear whether this would apply to chronic diseases or be limited to infectious diseases.

FY17 Budget Proposal

President Trump also proposed cutting $1.23 billion from this fiscal year, FY17, for the National Institutes of Health funding. The reduction is part of $18 billion in cuts that the administration wants in fiscal year 2017, which ends this October. Most of the proposed reductions at NIH would come from research grants, with $50 million specifically taken from IDEA grants, a program meant to support biomedical research geographically across the United States. The rest, nearly $1.2 billion, would more broadly reduce research grant funding

These cuts to the NIH would likely ground biomedical research and throw progress out the window. Komen has contacted Senate leadership, requesting that they reject the proposed cuts to NIH and CDC and will continue to meet with decision makers to make it known these proposed cuts are unacceptable to the breast cancer community.

American Health Care Act

Many of the members were unavailable to attend our scheduled meetings because there was a 27hour (ending at 5am on our day on the Hill) meeting to mark up the American Health Care Act (AHCA). There are still many unknowns with AHCA. As an organization, Komen is not taking an official stance or position on AHCA as it is still early in the conversation about the repeal and replacement of the ACA, however there are a couple points we will be monitoring in specific (while all the proposals are being closely watched). These specific points pertain to preexisting conditions and Medicaid funding:

  • PREEXISTING CONDITIONS

    Currently there is language, called the continuous coverage requirement, which requires Americans to keep continuous health care coverage and if this is breeched for 63 days or longer, an insurance company has the ability to charge higher premiums or deny coverage based on preexisting conditions. This would affect all breast cancer patients and survivors, an even some individuals with previous abnormal screenings.

  • MEDICAID

    There are also concerns around significant Medicaid reforms as Federal funding will be cut and the burden will shift to the States to decide what to do with less funding. The concern is that it may result in cutting off enrollment (no new people can enroll) or that expensive services, like long term cancer treatments, wouldn’t be covered.