2020 Census and its Impact on the Cancer Community

July 7, 2020
Magnifying glass

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census to count every living person in the U.S. and U.S. territories. The results of the census inform decision making and affect the support and amount of money your community will receive in federal funding. The U.S. Constitution requires that the population be counted once every ten years, and the time to do so has come once again. The 2020 census can be filled out online, by phone, or by mail, making it easier than ever to make sure that you are counted. You may be seeing commercials on TV, getting reminders in the mail, or hearing about the importance of being counted on social media.

Why is the census important?

Filling out the census is important for many reasons. Communities are assigned resources and funding based on census counts. Counts also determine the number of congressional representatives each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both considerations are critically important because they affect the allocation of essential resources to your community and how your voice is heard.

The federal government distributes money and resources to communities based on the number of people counted by the census. This federal funding is used to help communities do things such as improve schools and hospitals, enhance roads, address public safety measures, and invest in infrastructure. Census data is also utilized by businesses to decide where to create new offices and stores, which can create jobs and increase access to much needed resources in your community.

How does the census affect people impacted by cancer?

For people living with cancer, survivors, and caregivers, data from the census has a trickle-down effect on policies that may impact the accessibility and availability of quality health care services in your community. For example, the number of representatives each state will get in the U.S. House of Representatives is determined based on census data. States with a larger population have greater representation in the House, meaning more representatives are present in Congress to discuss and vote on legislation that may affect you and people in your state. These representatives are the individuals making big decisions for the American people on important issues regarding health insurance coverage, drug pricing, protections for people with pre-existing conditions (including cancer), funding for cancer research, access to treatments, and much more.

Census data is also used to distribute federal funding to state Medicaid and Medicare programs. For example, if a state’s population is undercounted by the census, meaning more people actually live in the state than are counted in the census, the state Medicaid program may not receive as much money as it should. This may happen when less than the correct number of people are used to calculate residents’ income, making it appear that each residents’ income is higher than it really is. Medicaid provides affordable health insurance coverage to eligible adults with low incomes, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. If individuals eligible for Medicaid are not counted in the census, a state may be left without the resources necessary to help people get the care and treatment they need.

Moreover, federal funding is allocated to hospitals, health clinics, and community health centers in your state based on census data. These health care settings deliver essential health services to community members and need all the financial support they can get in order to provide patients with high quality care, including cancer care, preventative screenings, social work services, psychosocial support, and nutritional counseling. Census data may also impact where new community health centers are built, thereby influencing the accessibility of health screenings and other important services to the people in your community. By completing the census questionnaire, you are ensuring that your voice counts and that your state secures the funding necessary for crucial health programs.

How can I complete the 2020 census?

An accurate and complete census count is essential for the future health of your community. The census can be completed online, by phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail, making it easier than ever to make sure that you are counted! It only takes a few minutes to fill out, your responses are kept anonymous, and it is available for completion in thirteen different languages. The deadline to complete the 2020 census form was extended until mid-August due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is best to fill it out as soon as you can. We encourage you to take just a few minutes to complete it now. To learn more about the 2020 census and complete your response, visit the census website today.