Susan G. Komen believes that where you live should not determine the quality of care you receive for breast cancer treatment. Unfortunately, there are inequalities and inequities in our health care system from coast to coast, and where you live can determine if you live.
Change in public policy is one way to equalize care for all and meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations. Sound public policy can give breast cancer patients access to high-quality health care no matter their age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, cancer stage or socio-economic status.
Komen recently released its 2021-2022 public policy priority issue areas that will guide its advocacy work at the state and federal levels to achieve health care equity. Komen is committed to accelerating research, ensuring access and alleviating patient burden and will work to achieve lasting change through public policy.
Additional funding for biomedical research at the state and federal level will help us discover new and more effective treatments for breast cancer so that we can save more lives. That’s because groundbreaking research is conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD) and through state agencies, and more funding for the agencies’ biomedical research will lead to more and better treatment options.
In addition, education and clinical research play an important role in driving better outcomes for the patients at the core of our policy work. Data tell us that not all populations are represented in clinical trials, likely because trials are not offered to patients in an inclusive and equitable way. Educating patients about clinical research options, breaking down barriers to trial participation, and inviting them to participate would help include people from all ages, genders and ethnicities and further our ability to develop therapies that are effective in all populations.
All breast cancer patients must have access to affordable, high-quality health care when they need it. Yet not everyone does. Komen advocates for key patient protections as access to care continues to be threatened by both legislative and judicial actions. No one should have to worry about losing or going without their health insurance or care for any reason.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast cancer screening and diagnostic services for uninsured and underinsured women and has been effective at catching breast cancers early. Additional federal and state funding for these programs would expand access to additional populations and help detect breast cancers early, when treatment options and survival rates are the best.
Medicaid and Medicare provide critical services for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, burdensome restrictions and requirements can often prevent qualifying people from accessing the services they need – therefore continued access to these programs is critical. Komen also supports Medicaid expansion and expanded eligibility for Medicaid’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (BCCTP).
Alleviating Patient Burden
Current law requires insurance companies to cover the cost of annual mammograms for women over the age of 40, without any cost to the woman. But if that woman’s mammogram detects an abnormality, insurance companies aren’t required to cover the screening and diagnostic imaging needed to determine if that abnormality is cancerous. Komen strongly supports policies that reduce or eliminate the cost of these medically necessary tests so a woman will know if she has breast cancer.
Several other barriers to care exist for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are going through treatment. Komen advocates for policies that give patients a choice in the treatment they receive and reduce the cost of those treatments, including through oral parity, the preclusion of specialty tiers, the prevention of step therapy protocols, the elimination of co-pay accumulators and limits on patients’ out-of-pocket costs. We know that breast cancer is burdensome enough without worrying about finances or administrative red tape.
And, finally, Komen supports policies that expand access to genetic and genomic testing and provide access to a patient navigator or navigation tools to assist cancer patients throughout the continuum of care.