The Star-Herald

Legislators sponsor metastatic breast cancer bill

Through the diligent work of breast cancer advocates from both the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition and Pink Aroostook at Cary Medical Center, both of Maine’s U.S. representatives, Democrat Chellie Pingree and Republican Bruce Poliquin, have signed on as cosponsors of the House version of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act (HR 6114).  

The bill, introduced in June of this year by U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida, is a top priority for the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) and would provide individuals with metastatic breast cancer who already qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and are therefore eligible for Medicare, immediate access to support and medical care.

Under current law, these individuals must wait five months for SSDI and 24 months for Medicare benefits to take effect.  This bill would waive both waiting periods.

“Since 1991, the National Breast Cancer Coalition has focused on ensuring that all individuals at risk for or with breast cancer have access to quality health care,” said Fran Visco, president. “Waiving these waiting periods helps assure that women and men living with metastatic breast cancer have access to the support and medical care they deserve.”

Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the breast to the bones, lungs or other distant parts of the body. While there are some treatments, there is no cure. The average life expectancy of an individual with metastatic breast cancer is three years.  

“Too many women (40,920) and men (480) lose their lives to breast cancer every year and 90 percent of breast cancer deaths are as a result of metastatic breast cancer (MBC),” said Castor. “While we must do more to encourage new treatments and cures, increase access to medical care, reduce health disparities and raise awareness for patients with MBC, eliminating onerous waiting periods for Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare is a meaningful step for women and their families. 

“The average life expectancy for women diagnosed with MBC is only three years,” Castor continued, “so we must eliminate barriers that could delay critical treatment.  I am proud to join with my colleague from New York, U.S. Rep. Peter King, to remove these barriers for individuals with MBC and help bring financial security to their families.”

Advocates of the National Breast Cancer Coalition are currently seeking bipartisan lead cosponsors for a Senate version of the bill that they hope to have introduced.

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