Three important pieces of health-related legislation that were endorsed and supported by the Masonic Cancer Center were passed by the Minnesota House and Senate

May 20, 2020

Three important pieces of health-related legislation that were endorsed and supported by the Masonic Cancer Center were passed by the Minnesota House and Senate before the end of the current session, with one of them being signed into law by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

The first piece of legislation, The Tobacco 21 bill (HF331), was signed into law by Governor Tim Walz. According to Clearway Minnesota, the bill gained strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and was championed by lawmakers from across Minnesota. Congress passed national Tobacco 21 in December 2019, and the discrepancy between the state tobacco age (18) and federal law (21) was causing confusion and tying the hands of local law enforcement. In addition to aligning with the federal tobacco age, the bill updates relevant state tobacco definitions, penalties, and signage requirements to ensure strong compliance and enforcement. 

The next piece of legislation supported by the Masonic Cancer Center focused on guaranteeing access to treatment for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through a program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCDEP). NBCCDEP helps low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women gain access to lifesaving screening programs for early detection of breast and cervical cancers. 

There are two CDC NBCCDEP-funded programs in Minnesota: the Minnesota Department of Health Sage Screening Program, which is funded jointly by the state and NBCCDEP, and the American Indian Cancer Foundation’s Screen Our Circle Program. Screen Our Circle is solely funded by the NBCCDEP program and provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to urban American Indian women. 

Under federal law, any woman diagnosed with cancer through a NBCCDEP-funded program is eligible for Medicaid. Access to treatment and health care coverage is critical to surviving the disease. However, Minnesota's Medical Assistance for Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act (MABC) is written with the most restrictive wording and names the Minnesota Department of Health’s Sage Screening Program as the only pathway to treatment coverage. This leaves out any American Indian women screened through the AICAF Screen Our Circle program that are in need of treatment after a cancer diagnosis. This piece of legislation will expand the language increasing access to treatment through Medicaid when diagnosed with cancer through NBCCDEP funded programs.

Finally, the third piece of legislation ensures coverage for standard of care cancer treatment services for Medical Assistance (MA) enrollees who participate in clinical trials. This bill has passed unanimously out of both HHS Policy committees in the House and Senate and was passed during the final hours of the session. 

One in five Minnesotans use Medical Assistance, which is the only major payer that was not required by state law to cover individuals who elect to participate in clinical trials. This coverage is already in place for Medicare patients and for those with private health insurance in Minnesota. As an organization founded on curing cancer through research, the Masonic Cancer Center team knows that clinical trial access should be available to all Minnesotans regardless of age or income, especially in the time of COVID-19.