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Advocacy Update - December 15, 2010
Below is a summary of some of the legislative issues that IMF has followed in the second session of the 111th Congress. As you can see, we were successful on many important issues such as ensuring access to clinical trials and declaring September Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

December 15, 2010

This is the last issue of the Advocacy Update for 2010.  The next issue will be published on January 15, 2011. 

On behalf of the IMF, we would like to thank you for all of your support throughout 2010.  The good work and efforts of the myeloma community are essential to IMF’s successful legislative efforts.  We truly appreciate all that you do on behalf of myeloma patients.

Have a happy holiday season!

Wrap Up of IMF Advocacy Priorities
Below is a summary of some of the legislative issues that IMF has followed in the second session of the 111th Congress.  As you can see, we were successful on many important issues such as ensuring access to clinical trials and declaring September Blood Cancer Awareness Month.    Over 3,000 messages were sent to Congress this year from myeloma advocates. Your commitment to the mission helped to ensure our success on many legislative issues in 2010. 

September Designated as Blood Cancer Awareness Month

Representatives Walther Jones (R-NC) and Betsy Markey (D-CO) sponsored a resolution (H. Res. 1433) designating September 2010 as Blood Cancer Awareness Month.  H. Res. 1433 highlighted the impact that the blood cancers have in the United States each year and encouraged greater support for blood cancer research and education.  Because of the efforts of IMF advocates, we met our goal of obtaining at least 100 cosponsors to ensure that the resolution moved through the legislative process and ultimately passed the House. 

President Signs Improving Access to Clinical Trials Act

On October 5th, the President signed the Improving Access to Clinical Trials Act (HR 2866/S 1674) into law.    This important legislation changes the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid so that compensation of up to $2,000 for participating in clinical trials won’t be considered income in SSI and Medicaid determinations.  

Health Insurance Reform Signed Into Law

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act transforms significant portions of the health care environment.   Below are the provisions that will improve the quality of life for all myeloma patients.

  1. Access to Clinical Trials - Health insurance plans are required to provide coverage for routine costs associated with participation in clinical trials.  This was a huge win for myeloma patients as many patients have had to decline participation in trials due to plans refusing to pay for the same costs they would reimburse for a patient that is going through non-clinical trial treatment. 
  2. Eliminates the Medicare "donut hole" - The bill provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who reach the Part D coverage gap in 2010.  The beneficiary coinsurance rate in the Medicare Part D coverage gap is gradually phased down from 100% to 25% by 2020.  For brand-name drugs, pharmaceutical manufacturers will provide a 50% discount on prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap beginning in 2011, in addition to federal subsidies of 25% of the brand-name drug cost by 2020 (phased in beginning in 2013).  For generic drugs, manufacturers will provide federal subsidies of 75% of the generic drug cost by 2020 for prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap (phased in beginning in 2011).  Finally, the bill will reduce the out-of pocket amount that qualifies an enrollee for catastrophic coverage.
  3. Eliminates Annual and Lifetime Caps on Insurance Coverage - Lifetime limits are eliminated in all health insurance.  Annual limits are restricted in new plans until 2014, after which they would be prohibited in all health insurance plans.
  4. Eliminates "Pre-Existing Conditions" as a Barrier to Health Insurance - This year children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Beginning in 2014, pre-existing condition discrimination will become a thing of the past for everyone with health insurance including myeloma patients.  Additionally, adults who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions now have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool.

The IMF Honored in the Congressional Record

Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY) honored the work of the IMF and raised awareness of multiple myeloma through his statement in the May 25th edition of the Congressional Record.  Representative Higgins stated what myeloma is, who is affected, and its prevalence in the statement. He recognized the IMF for its dedication to improving the quality of life for patients and caregivers while working towards prevention and cure for myeloma. He also noted his bill, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act (HR 2366), which eliminates disparities for cancer patients whose insurance coverage has differences in the way oral and intravenous chemotherapy therapies are covered.  The IMF has been proactively involved in helping to fight for this legislation.

Final FY 2011 Cancer Funding Yet To Be Finalized

With the 111th Congress winding down, the FY 2011 long stalled appropriations process could come to an end before the lame duck session is over.  The House of Representatives passed a year-long continuing resolution (CR) which would maintain funding for federal programs at their current levels, including all cancer research, prevention, education treatment and survivorship programs.  This would result in no increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies that fund cancer programs.

Meanwhile, the Senate is trying to find enough support in that chamber to pass an Omnibus Appropriations bill.  The Senate Omnibus Appropriations bill includes a $750 million increase for NIH.  The National Cancer Institute would receive $5.222 billion, an increase of $119 million and $50 million would be available to implement the Cures Acceleration Network.   

If the Senate can find consensus on an Omnibus, they will attach it to the House CR and send this bill back to the House.    Should either effort fail in House or Senate, then the possibility of a short-term CR that lasts into the New Year becomes a reality.  This means that many federal programs including the cancer programs will see significant funding cuts if final FY 2011 funding decisions are punted to next Congress. 

For more information about the legislation listed above or any other IMF advocacy initiative, contact IMF’s Director of Government Relations, Christine Murphy at cmurphy@myeloma.org or 703-738-1498.

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