By: Jessica Waddell & Amy Dunaway
Susan G. Komen® East Tennessee
Men get breast cancer too, as one East Tennessee man discovered in early 2018. He suspected he had breast cancer but hesitated to seek care because he had no health insurance. Fortunately, funding from Susan G. Komen® East Tennessee to the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (BCCSP) covered the cost of his diagnostic tests. And, unfortunately, his hunch was correct: he was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter.
At the time, only uninsured women – not men – with breast cancer were eligible for the state’s Medicaid Program, TennCare, provided they met the residency and income eligibility requirements. So, without health insurance, he decided to postpone treatment due to its cost. That’s why we here at Komen East Tennessee called on our partners and legislators to make a change.
Komen East Tennessee called State Representative Jerome Moon; the patient resided in Rep. Moon’s district. Rep. Moon launched into action that day and began working with the Governor’s office to identify potential solutions. At the same time, we reached out to the Tennessee Department of Health, one of our grantees, to ask for their help. This multi-tiered approach led to a policy clarification allowing men with breast cancer to enroll in TennCare for treatment.
The patient was immediately signed up for TennCare coverage and scheduled his surgery that day.
Komen’s Bold Goal is to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. Ensuring access to timely, quality care is a key element in achieving this goal. While breast cancer is uncommon in men, ensuring their access to treatment through health insurance coverage will bring us one step closer to that goal.
This advocacy effort was not only a success, but a reminder why we must keep working with our policymakers to ensure women and men have access to the breast cancer care they need.
Representatives from Komen’s Tennessee Affiliates at the 2018 Komen Advocacy Summit
In fact, earlier this year all three Komen Tennessee Affiliates joined forces on Capitol Hill to advocate for Congressional support of breast health. We had three advocacy priorities: 1) ensuring patient care through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, 2) calling for an increase in federally funded breast cancer research, and 3) improving access to oral chemotherapy drugs (which is referred to as “oral parity”).
The third priority – oral parity – is one that Komen’s Tennessee Affiliates advocate for at a state level as well. Forty-three states have passed legislation for fair and equal coverage of oral chemotherapy drugs, but Tennessee is not one of them. That means that patients in our state may be forced to pay more to receive their treatment in the form of a pill rather than IV. Or they may be forced to choose a less appropriate treatment due to costs.
State legislation for oral chemotherapy drug coverage was re-introduced during the 2017 legislative session, but additional action on the bill has been deferred until the 2018 session. So, our work is not yet done, but we remain determined.
Expanding Medicaid coverage to Tennessee’s men was a huge win that brings with it a renewed energy for our advocacy work. As a leader in breast cancer advocacy, we know that we can’t do it alone. Please join our advocacy network. Sign up online to stay informed and be alerted with opportunities for action.
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