Breast cancer patients face numerous barriers when trying to get care. From financial burdens, to trying to navigate state and federal laws, to being told their insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of screenings and procedures, breast cancer patients are struggling to save their lives.
Susan G. Komen’s new Center for Public Policy unifies and strengthens its advocacy efforts to remove these and many more barriers to care that patients are facing.
“This is an important time for breast cancer and public policy. The health care landscape is changing, and patients’ needs are changing,” Molly Guthrie, Susan G. Komen’s director of advocacy, said during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to launch the Center for Public Policy.
Panelists at the event shared experiences they’ve had in trying to treat patients in lower socio-economic communities and who face obstacles from their insurance providers.
“We need to go back to the basics and make it easier for everyone to get care,” said Dr. Regina Hampton, medical director of the Breast Center at Doctors Community Hospital. “Could we go back to the days when if you had an insurance card you could walk into any doctor’s office and get care?”
“The Latino population has the highest rate of uninsured,” added Claudia Campos, the chief programs officer and mental health director at Nueva Vida. “My population can’t pay for insurance, or if they have money, they have to use it to pay the co-pay.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a breast cancer survivor, has helped pass federal legislation to make care more accessible to breast cancer patients. “Your access to healthcare should not be based on your privilege. Your access to education should not be based on your privilege,” she said.
Guthrie said that the purpose of the Center for Public Policy is to provide a platform for everyone who has been touched by breast cancer, including survivors, those women and men who are currently living with the disease, especially those living with metastatic breast cancer, as well as their loved ones, to come together and give voice to the needs of breast cancer patients and advocate for public policy solutions to address those needs.
Michelle Hedman, a nurse living with metastatic breast cancer, also participated in the event and talked about the financial difficulty she’s had and continues to have in paying for her care. “I have experienced the financial toxicity that breast cancer diagnosis can bring. Despite working full time, I have experienced bankruptcy.”
Hedman says she’s struggled to afford the cost of her scans and has had to prioritize her procedures and surgeries based on what she could afford at the time. After getting a recent raise at her work, she’s able to switch to an insurance plan that provides better coverage, but still must come up with a few hundred dollars to pay the out-of-pocket costs of her scans every few months.