Cancer patients urge Michigan lawmakers to act

The unpredictable and dynamic nature of COVID-19 is no match for the steadfast commitment of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers.

The virus and the elevated risk for those with compromised immune systems became a roadblock for the annual Cancer Action Day, so cancer patients, survivors and caregivers from across the state traveled virtually to the state capitol recently to meet with Michigan’s lawmakers.

The ACS CAN volunteer advocates urged lawmakers to pass Oral Chemotherapy Fairness Legislation and to increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with an equivalent increase in the state’s tax on other tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

“Cancer hasn’t stopped. So, neither will we. As a cancer caregiver, I let my lawmakers know if we’re going to eliminate cancer as a major health problem in Michigan, this goal must be top of mind for our legislature,” said Jennifer Coston, ACS CAN Michigan state lead ambassador. “By reducing tobacco’s toll and improving access to care, we can reduce suffering and death from this disease.”

During the month, volunteers took part in virtual conversations with state lawmakers. A total of 85 volunteers virtually met with lawmakers and another 200 volunteers reached out via email and social media to legislative offices asking them to support ACS CAN’s legislative priorities.

Specifically, the Michigan volunteers asked the legislature to:

Pass Oral Chemotherapy Fairness Legislation

House Bill 4099 would equalize the out-of-pocket cost to the patient for oral chemotherapy and intravenous chemotherapy. Currently, the out-of-pocket costs for oral chemo medications versus intravenous (IV) medications provide a barrier for some Michiganders to use them.

Protect our kids and our state from Big Tobacco

Increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with an increase in the state’s tax on other tobacco products including e-cigarettes to equivalent levels. The cigarette tax increase would keep 32,300 youth in Michigan from becoming adults who smoke, prompt 67,800 adults who smoke to quit and it would generate over $280 million in new annual reliable revenue.

“We met with our elected leaders virtually as representatives of each one of the Michiganders who will be diagnosed with cancer this year,” said Coston. “When it comes to reducing tobacco’s impact on our state and improving access to care, politicians need to put politics aside and reach across the aisle.”

Even as we face this pandemic, every day an estimated 169 Michiganders are hearing the words “you have cancer” for the first time and 21,000 in the state are expected to die from this devastating disease this year. ACS CAN volunteer advocates are calling on Michigan’s lawmakers to change this by taking steps to make the fight against cancer a priority.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.

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