Power. Progress. Prevention. May 8, 2020

Published on May 8, 2020

Power. Progress. Prevention. -- An Advocacy Newsletter | Prevent Cancer Foundation

May 8, 2020

Cancer screenings drop amid coronavirus concern

A report from electronic medical records company EPIC showed cancer screenings have plummeted since COVID-19 has forced many to stay at home. An analysis of the data from appointments made in March shows screenings for breast, cervical and colon cancers dropped between 86% and  94% compared to the averages in same timeframe from 3 years prior.

While the data from EPIC only represents a fraction of total screenings, the results shed light on new problems created by the pandemic. Researchers are concerned that a lapse in routine screenings could lead to an increase in late-stage cancer diagnoses.

Although missed screenings may lead to later diagnoses, it is also important to minimize exposure to the virus. Also, as medical supplies are scarce, you can help conserve those resources.

With this in mind, the Prevent Cancer Foundation® recommends NOT seeking routine cancer screenings until public health officials deem it is safe to resume public activities. However, it critically important to resume routine screenings as soon as it safe to do—they may save your life.

Attorney general sought to change administration’s stance on the ACA

This week, Attorney General William Barr pushed to change the Trump administration’s position on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is currently at the center of a lawsuit (Texas v. US) where a group of Republican attorneys general (led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton) are seeking to repeal it. The move was in response to a looming deadline: The Supreme Court requires any changes to arguments be submitted by Wednesday.

Sources familiar with a meeting at the White House with the Domestic Policy Council say Barr tried to persuade officials to repeal only certain provisions of the ACA, such as the individual mandate (the requirement for people to purchase insurance), instead of the entire law. Barr reportedly expressed concerns about the potential political fallout over health care leading up to the election in November.

Both Barr and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have argued against repealing the entire law in the past, but there are new concerns, given the potential disruption in care brought on by COVID-19.

Despite Barr’s efforts, the president doubled down, saying he would not change his position and would move forward in supporting the Republican-led effort to completely repeal the ACA.

This is a developing story. We will provide updates as they occur.

Juul makes a move to Washington, D.C

Electronic cigarette company Juul announced on Tuesday it is relocating its headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The move is part of a broader restructuring plan, which also includes reducing its staff by a third and reducing operations in Europe and Asia. The company is facing mounting financial pressure for its role in the youth vaping epidemic, with sales dropping 38% since last July.

While it will maintain a presence in San Francisco, the city banned the sale of e-cigarette this year, making operations difficult. The transition to Washington is also a political move to get closer to lawmakers, public health officials and regulators. Juul’s products have recently been at the center of a regulatory crackdown as officials scramble to slow down the widespread use of e-cigarettes among teens and adolescents.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing regulations for e-cigarettes and vaping products, and e-cigarette companies must submit all products for review by September 9. Juul and other companies must prove that their products have a net health benefit, meaning they must show there is a greater benefit of e-cigarettes as an alternative to combustible cigarettes for adults versus the harm caused by young people using these products.

CMS offers flexible care options for patients during pandemic

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued regulatory waivers to allow patients and health care providers more flexibility during the pandemic. In order to maintain safety, CMS is expanding telehealth services for patients and boosting reimbursement rates for providers. With these expanded benefits, cancer patients can talk to their doctors about concerns regarding COVID-19 or routine care—all from the safety of their homes.

In accordance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, CMS will also:

  1. Remove barriers to allow faster hiring of providers from the local community or other states.
  2. Expand capacity to handle COVID-19 patients through temporary expansion sites (also known as the CMS Hospital Without Walls initiative).
  3. Expand at-home and community-based testing to minimize transmission of COVID-19 among Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
  4. Ease reporting audit requirements to allow providers more time to focus on patient care.

“I’m very encouraged that the sacrifices of the American people during the pandemic are working. The war is far from over, but in various areas of the country the tide is turning in our favor,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

These changes will remain in effect through the duration of the national emergency declared by President Trump. The president has not set a definitive end date for the state of emergency, and CMS may offer additional flexibility as care needs shift.



Sign up to get the latest about cancer prevention and early detection directly in your inbox.