This year has been unprecedented and forced us to embrace social distancing, online learning, telehealth, and working from home. The interruption of our normal lifestyle, racial tension, loss of employment, health insurance, and the fear of the second wave of the pandemic have all heightened the awareness of the importance of this year’s election. In addition to COVID-19 policies and funding, Medicaid expansion, budget and tax priorities, the fate of the Affordable Care Act, and many other issues are at the forefront of this election. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you have the power to change health policy, the policy makers, or their minds with each election. All 435 members of the US House of Representatives, 11 state governors (including NC & WV), and 1/3 of US Senators are up for election (including NC, VA, & WV). Although the focus for some is on the presidential election, your right should be exercised across every level of government (local, state, federal) during every election. American businesswoman Pat Mitchell once said, “If we don’t vote, we are ignoring history and giving away the future.” It is imperative that we all recognize that health care is also on the ballot this November. Please cast your ballot if you haven’t already and encourage friends and family to do their part.
Dr. Kathryn Weaver, Interim Director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity
2020 Election: The Impact of Civic Engagement
Civic engagement happens anytime someone takes action to better their community and encourages others to do so. Exercising your right to vote is a critical part of civic engagement. In 2016, only 69% of registered North Carolinians voted. It is absolutely critical that we all recognize the impact of voting on health care in this country. As of October 1st, Senate Bill 361 allows NC to join 20 other states ensuring equal coverage for anticancer drugs, and no longer requires patients to try less expensive, potentially less effective, drugs before they can get prescription coverage. The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in NC played a key role in advocacy and encouraging civic engagement among residents resulting in a new law protecting cancer patients from treatment delays and lower survival rates. When people make it a priority to engage, our democracy is strengthened. Watch this short video from The Presidential Precinct about civic engagement and how your participation can help us form a powerful force for the creation of a thriving, healthy, and equitable society:
Making the Case for Medicaid Expansion
People without insurance coverage have worse access to care than those who are insured including access to facilities for chronic conditions, illness prevention, and disease progression, such as cancer. Going without insurance coverage can have serious health consequences when individuals are not able to receive preventive care, thus delaying cancer screenings or other important wellness visits. Medicaid expansion is key in the fight for equity by increasing access to care for vulnerable populations often forced to forgo important preventive health services, screenings, and prenatal care. Medicaid expansion is optional and our state has consistently refused, leaving some North Carolinians not eligible for financial assistance to afford health insurance and unable to qualify for Medicaid’s strict existing guidelines. If our state legislature voted to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap, over $11 billion in new federal healthcare funding would come to our state to help with reimbursements and support our hospitals, also stimulating the economy with job growth. Learn more about Medicaid expansion from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
 The Fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the ACA case beginning the week after the November 3rd election. This can have tremendous ramifications for an estimated 133 million people nationwide with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, and Medicaid programs in states that have already expanded. Since February, enrollment through the ACA has been increasing due to the economic impact of COVID-19. If the ACA is deemed unconstitutional and overturned, these individuals will lose their coverage. Learn more from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
DonnaMarie Woodson is a colon and breast cancer survivor recently quoted in the Charlotte Observer: “I owe my life to the Affordable Care Act. The patient protections provided by ACA are the difference between life and death for so many North Carolinians. Whoever our future US senator is, that person needs to commit to protecting the health of North Carolinians and use their seat to do so.”
Health Legislation You Should Know
  • H.R. 913: The Clinical Treatment Act requires state Medicaid programs to cover routine patient costs for services that are provided in connection with a qualifying cancer clinical trial.

  • H.R. 6561: Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2020 authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $50 million per year to create a program to improve health outcomes and community organization capacity.

  • H.R. 6637: The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020 (HEAA), a policy that strives to eliminate health disparities by reducing barriers to coverage, also incorporates research legislation named after Henrietta Lacks, which aims to increase cancer clinical trial participation among underrepresented communities.

  • H.R. 1730: The Cancer Drug Parity Act helps patients with medication costs, especially among cancer patients in rural areas, by prohibiting health plans from increasing out-of-pocket costs for anticancer medication.

  • S.668: The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act seeks to remove the financial disincentives preventing people from getting life-saving colorectal cancer screening.
During the pandemic, it is important to practice the necessary precautions to ensure your health while voting. Find healthy, secure, and safe ways to cast your ballot this year (also in Spanish):
Important Dates
  • The deadline in NC to request an absentee ballot is today, October 27th and early voting runs thru October 31st. Check your voter registration status, identify early voting sites, verify your Election Day polling place, and view a sample ballot with the Voter Search tool from NCSBE:

  • Open enrollment for 2021 through the insurance marketplace starts November 1st and will close on December 15, 2020. Learn more from NC Navigator Consortium here:

  • On November 12th at 9am, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network will host their annual North Carolina Virtual Research Policy Forum. You can learn more and RSVP here:
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The Office of Cancer Health Equity Team

Interim Director: Kathryn Weaver, PhD, MPH
SR. Manager: Carla Strom, MLA
Hispanic Patient Navigator: Maria Alejandra Combs, JD, OPN-CG
Rural Patient Navigator: Emily Britt, MSW
African American Patient Navigator: Alexis Daniels, MS
Community Health Educator: Aeriel Diaz, CHES
Research Program Manager: Kelsey Shore, CCRC
Community Outreach Coordinator: Elias Berhanu, MPH
Event and Administrative Coordinator: Lekala Moore, BS

P: 336-713-3665