By: Sean Tuffnell
We are living in the age of outrage and hyper partisanship, which
makes any casual observer of our national political scene wonder if it’s
possible to agree on anything. Yet
despite the gridlock, average Americans are counting on our elected leaders to
set aside their differences occasionally and actually work together to solve
real issues that affect their daily lives.
Is that possible? Is there
anything that our divided government can agree on? Here are three things that Republicans and
Democrats should be able to agree on:
No one should die from breast cancer just because they couldn’t
access the care they need.
Decisions about life-saving treatments should be made between the
patient and their doctor.
Our responsibility to protect our citizens from threats should
extend to protecting their health, including a commitment to medical
Breast cancer is not a partisan
issue. The reality is nearly everyone in
this country has been touched in some way by this dreadful disease or has
someone in their life that they would move mountains to protect from its deadly
grip. Sadly, more than 42,000 women and
men die from breast cancer each year in the U.S. – it doesn’t have to be this
way. Together, we can drive government
action to make the broad, systemic and lasting change we need to help us save
Every woman and man deserve access to timely and affordable
high-quality breast health care — but not everyone has it. Patient protections included in the
Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue to be threatened and additional protections
are still needed. We are asking our
nation’s leaders to put patients first and defend the Breast Cancer Bill of
ACCESS: Breast cancer patients and survivors have a right to
continuous, affordable, quality and accessible health insurance coverage
regardless of pre-existing conditions or current circumstances.
CLINICAL TRIALS: Breast cancer patients should be educated about
clinical trial opportunities and patients who participate in a clinical trial
have a right to coverage of routine health care costs.
EARLY DETECTION: Every woman has a right to access the most
effective, evidence-based breast cancer screening and diagnostic tools that may
save her life.
FINANCIAL STABILITY: Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer
have a right to fight the disease without fear of bankruptcy.
HIGH QUALITY: Every woman has a right to high-quality care, no
matter where she seeks medical services.
INNOVATION: All Americans have a right to a government that makes
investment in cancer research a national priority.
PATIENT EDUCATION: Every woman has a right to make informed
decisions and control her own health.
RECONSTRUCTION: Breast cancer survivors have a right to insurance
coverage for full mastectomy care, including reconstruction or prosthesis.
STRONG SAFETY NET: Uninsured and underinsured women have a right
to a strong breast health care safety net.
TIMELY CARE: Every woman who has an abnormal mammogram has a right
to a diagnosis and treatment, if needed, without delay.
So how can policy makers take
action? The first step would be to
strengthen our commitment to ensuring people get screened for breast
cancer. Many people who are uninsured or
underinsured rely on the local screening clinics funded by the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. In addition to continuing to support this
vital program, it is time to modernize the state programs to expand eligibility
so fewer women fall through the cracks.
And if a woman’s screening results raise concerns, we need to ensure she
has access to free or low-cost diagnostic services.
Yet while we have done a tremendous job
of expanding access to low-cost or free
screening services, it does people no good to discover they have cancer if they
can’t get the treatment they need. That
means we need to work together to protect access to affordable, high-quality
health care for all patients by expanding Medicaid,
increasing eligibility for Medicaid’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment
Program and ensuring continued access to Medicaid coverage without burdensome
Once diagnosed with breast cancer,
decisions about what treatment a patient gets should unquestionably be made by
the doctor and the patient, based on what is most effective with the least
toxic side effects. Yet this does not
always happen today. To protect doctor
patient preference in decision-making, we need to reduce
cost and address barriers to breast cancer treatments, such as requiring that
insurance companies and government programs eliminate the difference in cost
structure between oral chemotherapy drugs and those that are given through
IV. Other reforms should include
precluding specialty drug tiers, preventing protocols that require step therapy
(trying cheaper alternative drugs first to show they won’t work before moving
on to the next drug, which ultimately wastes time that can be critical for a
cancer patient), and preventing switching of medications for non-medical
Finally, we all
know that research is the only thing that is ultimately going to cure
cancer. Therefore, we must remain committed to funding research through
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at the Department of Defense (DOD).
The temptation of these political times is to run to the fringes
in a fight for headlines in pursuit of the next election. Unfortunately, the more than 270,000 men and women who will be diagnosed with
breast cancer this year can’t afford to wait.
By working together to find common ground, we can save lives.
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