Driving Forward our COVID-19 Policy Priorities for Patients

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430,000 people – it’s a huge number. It’s the population of Minneapolis. Nine straight days of sell-out crowds at Yankee Stadium. Nearly the entire enrollment of the Southeastern Conference. And it’s the number of people who, in the last six weeks, have become newly eligible for Medicaid, thanks to successful ballot initiatives this summer in Oklahoma and Missouri. LLS, our staff, and our volunteers are proud to have played a role in this major win for patients.

Those victories couldn’t have come at a more important time, with patients navigating both COVID-19, which directly threatens their health, and the recession, which threatens their ability to obtain insurance and afford healthcare. Medicaid is a critical lifeline for low-income cancer patients, and we know that millions of Americans have lost their health insurance during the recession. Expanding Medicaid helps ensure low-income families and individuals can access healthcare.

In both Oklahoma and Missouri, our Office of Public Policy mobilized advocates through emails, texts and social media, urging them to vote for Medicaid expansion and pointing them toward information on how to register to vote and cast their ballots. LLS also worked closely with other patient organizations as part of a coalition, highlighting how Medicaid expansion would support patients in their time of need.

LLS continues its advocacy work on behalf of patients at the federal level as well. Recently, Senate Republicans introduced their latest COVID-19 relief bill, and House Democrats introduced theirs in May. As you’ve likely seen, relief talks have come to a standstill. While the future of supplemental unemployment benefits, which ended in July, is in the spotlight, LLS’s policy priorities are focused on other issues impacting patients directly.

We’re urging lawmakers to:

  • Provide additional funding for Medicaid, which many cancer patients depend on
  • Create an open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov, allowing anyone who wants to buy health insurance to purchase it right now
  • End surprise medical bills – which can discourage people from getting medical treatment and cause financial devastation
  • Provide federal subsidies for COBRA coverage, allowing those who lost their jobs amid the recession to continue to afford health insurance
  • Extend paid leave for workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19

LLS led the drafting of a recent letter to Congressional leaders on behalf of nearly 30 patient organizations that elaborates on each of these needs. Additionally, LLS signed onto a statement with other nonprofits and patient organizations, calling for programs in the next federal COVID-19 package that will address the financial needs of nonprofits so they can keep serving their communities.

So far, our network of online volunteers has shared more than 12,000 letters with Congress urging lawmakers to take important steps to protect the health and safety of blood cancer patients. We’re in an unprecedented time. That’s why LLS’s Office of Public Policy – experts in lobbying, public policy, advocacy and communications – continues to work to ensure our country is doing everything possible to protect blood cancer patients.

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