Hundreds of Cancer Advocates to Urge Lawmakers to Put Patients Before Politics

Rep. Waxman, Florida State Sen. Deutch and North Carolina State Rep. Holliman to be Honored For Leadership in the Fight Against Cancer

WASHINGTON -- September 21, 2009 -- More than 400 cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and their families from all 50 states and nearly every Congressional district will unite tomorrow to lobby their members of Congress in support of comprehensive health care reform. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is hosting its annual leadership summit and lobby day to urge lawmakers to focus on patients, not politics, by supporting reform that escalates the emphasis on disease prevention and ensures that all Americans have access to health care.

"If we are going to meet our national goal of reducing death and suffering related to cancer, all Americans must have access to quality, affordable health care,” said John R. Seffrin, CEO of the ACS CAN. “Advocates are asking their elected officials to take a stand on behalf of all of their constituents who have had cancer or who could get cancer and commit to making health care reform a reality this year."

One in four families affected by cancer says they have had to put off or delay care in the past year because of cost, according to a national poll recently released by ACS CAN. The poll also found that in the previous 12 months, nearly 1 in 3 cancer patients in current treatment cut pills or skipped doses, nearly 1 in 4 delayed a recommended cancer screening or treatment and 1 in 5 did not fill a prescription. The complete poll, "The Need for Health Care Reform Through the Eyes of Cancer Patients: A National Poll,” is available at

"Cancer patients are acutely aware of the holes that exist in our current 'sick care' system too often they are forced to fight for their lives and their life savings at the same time,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN.

Before meeting with their legislators, cancer advocates will attend a training on communicating with elected officials, speaking with the media and engaging in grassroots activities in their communities. They will be advocating for provisions that will work for people with cancer and have already been proposed in health care reform bills, including:

  • Guaranteeing coverage for all Americans regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from charging people more for insurance because of their health status;
  • Eliminating annual and lifetime dollar limits on benefits and placing limits on patient out-of-pocket costs;
  • Increasing the emphasis on prevention, with little or no patient costs for cancer screenings; and
  • Fostering patient-centered care to improve quality of life for people with cancer

ACS CAN is also working to ensure that coverage is both affordable and adequate for all Americans.

"We need Congress to put aside partisan politics and work together to achieve reform that works for patients," said Rob Youle, Volunteer Chairman of ACS CAN's Board of Directors.

ACS CAN advocates will also be joined by a group of Division I college basketball coaches, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Capitol Hill rally hosted by Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday, September 22 nd at the Swamp in Upper Senate Park. The coaches, who are members of Coaches vs. Cancer®, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, are putting aside their on-court rivalries to urge passage of health care reform.

Advocates will also be on hand for the presentation of ACS CAN’s National Distinguished Advocacy Award. This year’s award recipients are Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), North Carolina State Representative Hugh Holliman (D) and Florida State Senator Ted Deutch (D). The National Distinguished Advocacy Award is ACS CAN’s most prestigious advocacy award and is awarded for leadership in the fight against cancer. A reception honoring the recipients of these awards will be held Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The week’s activities will be rounded out by a photo exhibit in the Rayburn House Building Foyer featuring testimonials and portraits of real people burdened by the cost of cancer who want action NOW, not later, on health care reform.

ACS CAN is the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit


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