ASCO recently announced its endorsement of the Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2014 (S. 194), which would close tax loopholes that allow tobacco companies to avoid the federal cigarette tax by making taxes on pipe tobacco equivalent to cigarette tobacco.
“Raising tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth,” said ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, in an endorsement letter. “Reducing tobacco use is one of the most effective ways of preventing cancer, and therefore ASCO supports your efforts to achieve parity among all tobacco products as a way to reduce tobacco consumption of all kinds.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), also argued that the bill would reduce federal spending on some medical programs because higher prices on tobacco products would dissuade people from smoking, thus lowering medical expenses from health problems related to tobacco use, such as cancer.
Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act
ASCO has also endorsed the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act of 2013 (H.R. 1801), bipartisan federal legislation that would require private health insurance plans offering intravenous chemotherapy benefits to provide parity for orally administered and self-injectable anticancer medications. Sponsored by Reps. Brian Higgins (D-New York) and Peter King (R-New York), the bill would greatly reduce financial burdens placed on patients with cancer, many of whom are being hit with significant out-of-pocket costs as many insurers only cover cancer drugs in intravenous form.
“The cost sharing burdens imposed on patients for oral cancer drugs can create insurmountable financial barriers to optimal treatment and may increase the total cost of care,” Dr. Hudis said.
Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
Lastly, ASCO is supporting legislation (S. 641) that addresses the growing demand for palliative care, an essential yet underutilized component of high-quality cancer care. The bill, Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), would begin to address a growing national need for palliative care.
The legislation would create up to 24 Palliative Care Education Centers at medical schools across the country to expand interdisciplinary training, as well as establish fellowships that would provide faculty in medical schools and other health profession schools short-term intensive courses focused on palliative care. ASCO believes that oncologists must take a strong leadership role in helping implement PCHETA once enacted.
ASCO has demonstrated long-standing leadership in fostering the delivery of palliative care in the oncology setting. The Society has issued several policy statements advocating for palliative care to be a part of comprehensive cancer care; developed numerous educational and training initiatives (including a published curriculum) to improve palliative care skills in the oncology workforce; integrated palliative care into its clinical practice recommendations and quality improvement programs; and sponsored many young researchers to investigate palliative care topics.
ASCO encourages its members to take action and urge their elected officials to support these bills. Visit the ACT Network (www.asco.org/actnetwork) to learn how you can advocate for these important pieces of legislation. ■
© 2013. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.