Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ07) recently introduced two important measures that address urgent concerns of the breast cancer support community: H.R. 2540, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act and H.R. 2739, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act. And last Monday, at Susan G. Komen North Jersey’s headquarters in Summit, he brought members of the medical community, breast cancer survivors, advocates and supporters to the table to discuss the state of the fight against breast cancer, and his work in Washington to combat the disease.
“All of us are working out of love for mothers, daughters, sisters and wives,” Lance told attendees at the roundtable discussion. “We have championed many important ideas and collaborated on various policies to combat this disease. These two measures I have introduced in Congress will give patients more tools and resources in the fight. These types of policies are the bipartisan, practical solutions that can make a positive difference in the lives of many.”
H.R. 2540, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act will require that patients be informed of the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction and prostheses. Since 1998, Federal law requires that insurance companies cover reconstructive surgery and prostheses, whether it is at the time of surgery, or long afterwards. But studies have shown that many women are unaware of their options. Says Lance, “This bill intends to put into place an education campaign to ensure that women coping with breast cancer, especially those of ethnic and minority status, are made more fully aware of their options, and as a result, gain more control over their health care decisions.”
Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz (LD-21) spoke on her resolution in the State Assembly urging support for H.R. 2540, and similar legislation on the state level that mandated the goals of H.R. 2739. “Too many women suffering from breast cancer, particularly in minority communities, are inadequately advised of reconstructive options. I cannot understate the importance of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act to women across New Jersey and the United States, and applaud Congressman Lance in his leadership on this issue.”
A letter sent to Congressman Lance from Dr. Judith Salerno, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Susan G. Komen just prior to the roundtable event, pledged the organization’s support of the bill and applauded Lance for his leadership. “While the decision to undergo breast reconstruction or use prostheses is a personal decision, all women should be made aware of their options and coverage,” said Salerno. “Unfortunately, studies have found that too few women are fully informed of their options—especially racial and ethnic minority groups. This legislation complements the work currently being done in communities across the country by Komen Affiliates ensuring that all women have access to high quality, affordable care.”
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, an organization deeply committed to educating women about the availability of procedures that can support their breast cancer recovery, was represented by Dr. Gregory Greco, who noted that the wounds of breast cancer are not just physical; they are emotional, psychological and spiritual. “More and more, healthcare providers and patient champions understand that repairing cancer’s non-physical damage is part of our job as members of the cancer team,” said Greco. “For many women, that sort of healing, the kind that comes when someone feels whole again, can only be fully recognized through the reconstructive process. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act Coalition works to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.”
Patient advocate Dora Arias, Founder & Executive Director of Curémonos, which provides education, support and advocacy to medically-underserved women with breast cancer, remarked that breast cancer patients, regardless of their race or ethnicity, yearn to regain a ‘normal’ life after treatment. “The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act,” confirmed Arias, “will ensure that all women in this country are informed of their breast reconstruction options and can exercise their right to make informed decisions regarding their treatment.”
This month, Lance also introduced H.R. 2739, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act, which would require health insurance plans that cover traditional chemotherapy to provide equally favorable coverage for orally-administered anti-cancer medications. This bill is a critical step towards improving access to anti-cancer drugs by requiring companies to cover patient-administered and physician-administered anti-cancer drugs at the same cost. Correcting this disparity in coverage will enable cancer patients to make healthcare decisions based on the best information and the best course of care available to them, rather than on cost and/or accessibility to treatment.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Lance reinforced his conviction that both these initiatives are bi-partisan in nature and address issues that potentially affect every member of Congress. He expressed his hope that “this is where the nation will come together” and that he will “work in Congress to bring these priorities and all priorities of the breast cancer community to action in Washington.”