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Advocacy

Overview

In January 2024, Cancer Legal Care partnered with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) and our clients to learn about effective storytelling when meeting with elected officials. Because of cancer's financial toxicity often driven by medical billing errors and wrongful insurance coverage denials, Cancer Legal Care clients have a wealth of lived experience to share with law makers regarding the medical debt reforms that will be part of the upcoming Minnesota Legislative Session.

While the need for this training focused on medical debt, the lessons and learnings shared are helpful for anyone who is looking to share their experience with a law maker.

Cancer Legal Care seeks to educate the public and influence policies that impact people and communities affected by cancer. To this end, Cancer Legal Care is committed to supporting policies that enhance access to quality, affordable health care for cancer patients, reduce the financial toxicity associated with cancer, eliminate barriers to care, and advance health equity by addressing social determinants of health.

Cancer Legal Care advocates on behalf of cancer patients and survivors on a wide range of policy issues, including:

Medical Debt Reform

Access to Services

Costs of Care

Cancer Prevention

Family Medical Leave

Health Insurance Coverage

Access to Treatment

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Learn more about these issues below.

Medical Debt Reform in Minnesota

When asked to describe the impact that cancer has had on their financial life, 78% of Cancer Legal Care clients report a moderate (34%) or profound (44%) impact on their income and finances. The anticipated debt reform legislation that will be introduced in the 2024 Minnesota Legislative Session would make a profound impact on lives of Cancer Legal Care clients and thousands of other Minnesotans.

Resources

Minnesota Consumer Debt Litigation: A Statewide Access to Justice Report– Minnesota State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee, 2023

Debt Collection Fact Sheet– Attorney General Keith Ellison

Protecting Patients from Treatment Delays Due to Prior Authorization

Prior authorization is a health plan utilization and cost-control process that requires health care providers to obtain approval from the plan before a service is delivered to confirm the patient qualifies for coverage of the service. Prior authorization requirements often apply to cancer treatments, such as surgery, medication, imaging, and other oncology services. Claim processing procedures and delays, as well as claim denials involved with these requirements, can create significant barriers to care, leading to significant treatment delays or even abandonment of treatment. According to an American Medical Association physician survey in 2021, 93% of physicians reported that prior authorization delays access to necessary care, and 91% reported that prior authorization had a negative impact on patient clinical outcomes, leading to treatment abandonment and even hospitalization. Policy changes are needed to reduce the burden of prior authorization on patients and providers and ensure timely access to needed care.

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Protecting Consumers from Non-ACA Compliant Health Plans

The Affordable Care Act established extensive consumer protections that apply to most health plans offered in the U.S., such as required coverage for pre-existing conditions without charging a higher cost, and ending yearly and lifetime limits on coverage of essential health benefits. Some insurers, however, have continued to offer plans that do not comply with these important protections and place consumers at great risk, especially those with pre-existing conditions such as cancer. These plans are often marketed to consumers through deceptive practices and exclude coverage for key benefits, leaving patients at risk of devastating consequences like coverage gaps and high out-of-pocket medical expenses. Several states have issued laws or regulations to protect consumers from these non-ACA-compliant health plans, but more needs to be done to curb these harmful practices.

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Federal Lymphedema Treatment Act (S.1315/H.R.3630)

The Lymphedema Treatment Act (S.1315/H.R.3630) is a federal bill that would provide Medicare coverage of medically necessary, doctor-prescribed compression supplies that are an essential component of lymphedema treatment. Lymphedema affects millions of Americans each year, and many of these individuals are Medicare beneficiaries who currently lack coverage for these critical supplies. This bill would close that gap and ensure lymphedema patients have access to the treatment they need.

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Paid Family and Medical Leave

Cancer treatment and recovery can be extremely disruptive to a patient’s life, including their ability to work and earn an income. Cancer patients and survivors often work fewer hours, take time off from work for extended periods, and suffer long-term job loss. According to an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network survey, 74% of cancer patients and survivors reported missing work due to their illness, with 69% reporting they missed more than four weeks of work. Family members also take time away from work to care for loved ones in treatment. Another survey found that annual family income reduced by more than 20% in the years following a cancer diagnosis. One reason for this is the lack of access to paid family and medical leave in the U.S.

Paid family and medical leave provides workers with a designated number of paid or partially paid weeks of leave per year to use when the worker is facing a serious health condition or needs to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries in the world that does not have national standards for paid family and medical leave. Although legislation has been enacted and introduced in several states to establish paid leave programs at the state or local level, most states do not have paid leave programs at this time. Some employers offer voluntary paid leave to employees, but many employees are left without a safety net when they or a loved one is facing a serious illness such as cancer. Paid leave policies provide critical support for cancer patients, survivors, and their families by allowing them to take the time they need without risking financial distress and other long-term employment consequences.

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News & Updates


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What You Can Do


 

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