New Study Finds Affordability Leading Policy Priority for Cancer Patients and Survivors  

By ACS-CAN | February 14, 2024

ACS CAN survey highlights need for New York lawmakers to prioritize policy to reduce medical debt during session

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 14, 2024 – Protecting free preventive cancer screenings and reducing the burden of medical debt are the top issues of concern for cancer patients and survivors today, according to a new survey by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) that asked participants to select their leading policy priorities for the year.

Over half of (51%) of survey participants noted that finding ways to help patients stay out of medical debt or reduce the negative impact of medical debt accrued was a top policy priority for them–that’s up from 33% in a similar poll in 2020. Policies to address the high costs of cancer have also grown in support among those touched by cancer, reflecting the urgency to address the high costs of cancer in New York.

“The latest survey results affirm what we already know here in New York—that the system is failing some families touched by cancer. The sky-high costs of treatment have forced some patients to choose between their life and livelihood,” said Michael Davoli, Senior Government Relations Director for ACS CAN in New York. “There are proposals in both New York State and New York City to alleviate the burden of medical debt and ensure that those battling disease needn’t make the impossible decision between life-saving treatment and daily needs. ACS CAN is proud to support any effort to lessen the impact of medical debt on New York patients and their families.”

At the state level, lawmakers are eyeing two medical debt proposals—the Ounce of Prevention Act (S1366B/A6027A) aims to reform the State Hospital Financial Assistance Law and the Stop SUNY Suing Act (A8017/S7778) seeks to ban the five state-operated hospitals from suing patients. In NYC, Mayor Adams has dedicated $18 million in an effort to erase the medical debt of as many as 500,000 New Yorkers.

“ACS CAN urges the State Legislature to adopt and improve upon Governor Hochul’s proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget provisions, reforming the State Hospital Financial Assistance Law by incorporating additional protections outlined in S1366B/A6027A and A8170/S7778 into their one-house budget proposals,” said Davoli.

The survey data was collected between January 3 to January 22, 2024. A total of 1,542 cancer patients and survivors who were treated or diagnosed within the past seven years responded to the questionnaire. Differences reported between groups are tested for statistical significance at a 95% confidence interval.

Read the full polling memo here.


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for evidence-based public policies to reduce the cancer burden for everyone.  As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging advocates across the country to make their voices heard, ACS CAN influences legislative and regulatory solutions that will end cancer as we know it.