Earlier this week, New York lawmakers, advocates and people living with cancer came to Albany to outline their budget and legislative priorities as lawmakers continue to hammer out a final budget deal. The advocates are looking for more funding for the Cancer Services Program, expanding access to paid family medical leave and diminishing the impact of medical debt, among other things.

Advocates are calling for more funding for two programs in the state, the cancer services program and the tobacco control program. The Cancer Services Program provides breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings to New Yorkers without or with inadequate health insurance while meeting certain age and income requirements.

According to data from the New York state Health Department, nearly 9,000 people were diagnosed with cervical or colorectal cancer in 2020 and nearly 3,000 died from the diseases. Estimates for breast cancer are at about 16,700 diagnoses and about 2,500 deaths each year from breast cancer.

The want from advocates for funding for the cancer services program is $22.3 million which the Assembly agreed on in their one-house budget. However, the state Senate and governor’s budget proposals kept the funding at a level that it has been at for nearly a decade which is $19.8 million.

The other funding priority for cancer advocates is for the tobacco control program. The tobacco control program is an effort from the Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control which aims to lower illness, disability and death related to tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

The Assembly increased funding for this program in their budget proposal to $46.3 million. However, the program was left to $39.1 million in the governor and Senate proposals, which is the level it has remained at for nearly a decade.

On the policy front, the advocates are calling for an expansion of paid family medical leave to include intermittent leave which advocates argue is essential for cancer patients which often demands sporadic or intermittent time off.

Finally, advocates are looking to further alleviate the burden of medical debt for people dealing with cancer patients. The governor and Senate included provisions on medical debt but the Assembly did not. Last year, the governor signed legislation that banned medical debt from being reported to credit agencies so it does not impact the credit scores of New Yorkers.

On Thursday, the governor signed a budget extension bill which will allow budget negotiations to go past the end of the state fiscal year on March 31.