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Advocacy Update - December 17, 2009

This is the last issue of the Advocacy Update for 2009. The next issue will be published on January 15, 2010.

On behalf of the IMF, we would like to thank you for all of your support throughout 2009.  The good work and efforts of the myeloma community are essential to IMF’s successful legislative efforts.  We truly appreciate all that you do and look forward to working with you again in 2010.

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 first session of the 111th Congress. As you can see, we were successful on many important issues such as increasing funding for cancer research in both the economic stimulus package as well as in fiscal year (FY) 2010 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  However, Congress still has unfinished business on health care reform legislation.

IMF Supported Programs Receive Increased Funding in FY 2010
The House and Senate approved a FY 2010 omnibus spending package (HR 3288) comprised of the six remaining spending bills, including the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3293).  Included in HR 3288 is $31 billion for the NIH (a 2.3% increase over the FY 2009 funding level) and $5.103 billion for the NCI (a 2.8% increase).  Additionally, the Geraldine Ferraro Blood Cancer Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received $4.7 million.  This is the same funding amount the blood cancer program received in FY 2009.

Congress Continues Work on Health Care Reform Legislation
The House of Representatives passed HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a vote of 220-215 on November 7th.  Representative Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA) was the sole Republican to vote for HR 3962 and 39 Democrats voted against the bill.

Shortly before adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Senate held a procedural vote to proceed with debate of their health care reform bill.  Since then, the Senate has been debating their bill.  A major sticking point for the legislation is a government run public option for health care coverage.  The Senate recently reached a tentative deal on health reform which would result in dropping the public option (with state opt-out) that is currently included in the bill.  Instead the tentative compromise would create national insurance policies that would be administered by private companies but negotiated by the federal government.

IMF is monitoring a couple of provisions related to the health care reform bill. The US Senate will consider an amendment sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) that ensures coverage for the costs of routine clinical trials for myeloma patients.  These are the same costs that insurance currently covers for the same care provided outside of a clinical trial.  To ensure that this amendment is included in the Senate’s health care reform bill, a letter has been set up for myeloma advocates to send to their US Senators asking for them to support the Brown-Hutchison amendment.  To send a letter to your Senators, please visit the IMF Advocacy Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/myeloma/issues/alert/?alertid=14467716.

Additionally, HR 3962 included a provision that reduces the gap in Part D prescription drug coverage (also known as the “doughnut hole”) by $500 for Medicare beneficiaries in 2010 and completely closes the doughnut hole in 2019.  The current Senate version closes the doughnut hole by $500 in 2010, but does not eliminate this hole by 2019.

The Senate plans to hold a final vote on health care reform before adjourning for the Christmas holiday. Once the Senate passes their health care reform bill, there will be a conference committee of House and Senate members to iron out the differences between the 2 bills.

Oral Parity Drug Bill Introduced in House of Representatives
Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY) introduced the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act of 2009 (HR 2366) on May 12th, 2009.  HR 2366 requires group and individual health insurance coverage and group health plans to provide for coverage of oral cancer drugs on terms no less favorable than the coverage provided for intravenously (IV) administered anticancer medications.  Since introduction of HR 2366, cosponsors have been added to the bill but more are needed to continue to build support for this important legislation.  To send a letter to your Representative, please visit the Advocacy Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/myeloma/issues/alert/?alertid=14033126.

Cancer ALERT (Access to Life-Saving Early Detection, Research and Treatment) Act Reinvigorates the War on Cancer
S 717, the Cancer ALERT (Access to Life-Saving Early Detection, Research and Treatment) Act introduced by former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) provides a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention, detection and treatment while it emphasizes continuing research and better coordination among existing efforts.  While action on S 717 has been delayed due to the death of Senator Kennedy earlier this year and the current health care reform debate, new lead sponsors along with Senator Hutchison will be working on this important piece of legislation in 2010.

Senate Increases Funding for Cancer Research in Economic Stimulus Bill
Congress included $10 billion for the NIH in the economic stimulus bill.  Of this amount more than $1.3 billion was set aside for the NCI. 

Are You a Member of the Myeloma Action Network?
Want to stay informed about IMF’s advocacy activities? All you need to do is to join the Myeloma Action Network at http://www.capwiz.com/myeloma/mlm/signup/ and you will automatically receive e-mail advocacy alerts from the IMF.  To learn more about health care reform and other important advocacy issues that impact the myeloma community, please visit the IMF advocacy page at www.myeloma.org.

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