Research Funding, Oral Parity, Step Therapy in Focus as ASCO’s Leadership Development Program Advocates on Capitol Hill

April 16, 2018

On Wednesday, April 11, 21 members of ASCO’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) went to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress and their staff to advocate for key cancer policy priorities. During the Hill Day, LDP members met with 31 offices, and specifically called on policymakers to:

  • Provide robust funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In meetings with policymakers, LDP members thanked Congress for passing the recent Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) omnibus appropriations bill, which included a $3 billion funding increase for the NIH. ASCO’s advocates urged Congress to pass a full FY19 appropriations bill and continue to build on their investments by providing at least a $2 billion increase for the NIH.
  • Ensure oral drug parity. LDP members encouraged members of the House and Senate to support legislation to ensure patient cost sharing for oral anticancer drugs is no less favorable than for traditional IV medication. Legislation to address this issue has been introduced in the House (H.R. 1409, the Cancer Drug Parity Act), however the bill currently does not have a companion in the Senate.
  • Eliminate unnecessary barriers to cancer care. On Capitol Hill, ASCO advocates asked policymakers to support the Restoring the Patients Voice Act (H.R. 2077), which provides a clear process to request an exemption for medications submitted for step therapy review and states that before a health plan can deny or delay access to necessary treatment, the plan must consider the providers’ professional judgment. Step therapy is a payer policy that requires patients to fail a payer-preferred drug before patients can access drugs recommended by their health care provider. This policy creates barriers and delays access to cancer care.

The Hill Day is just one component of the Leadership Development Program, which provides a small group of mid-career oncologists with leadership skills, increased exposure to the roles and mission of ASCO, and a path to move into leadership positions within the society. Applications for the 2019-2020 cycle will open July 1, 2018.

Follow ASCO in Action for updates on ASCO’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and listen to the ASCO in Action podcast for analysis and commentary on cancer policy and practice issues.