March 20, 2017–We attended the National Breast Cancer Coalition‘s (NBCC) Team Leader Training in Washington, DC. This unique training session is designed to give advocates from across the country, the opportunity to hear first hand what issues are being considered in Congress and help train them for leading a team from their state to advocate in May of each year. After the training, Team Leaders including our Executive Director, Amy Upchurch, were able to meet with elected officials from their states. Upchurch met with the following members of the Georgia Congressional delegation: Representative David Scott; Representative John Lewis; Representative Barry Loudermilk; Representative Buddy Carter; Representative Tom Graves; Representative Jody Hice; and Representative Drew Ferguson. At the meetings, NBCC asked us to discuss two issues:
- The Department of Defense (DOD) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) FY2018 funding. The appropriations process for FY2018 has begun. A “Dear Colleague” letter to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and Ranking Member in support of funding for the program is currently being circulated. Upchurch asked each office to sign onto the letter in support of this important program. The DOD BCRP was created in 1992 to “eradicate” breast cancer by funding innovative, high-impact research through a partnership of scientists and consumers.” The program is widely viewed as a unique and efficient medical research model which has proven to be accountable to the public and has produced extraordinary results, including the drug Herceptin. This program was the very first Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and many other CDMRPs have been created based on this model.
- Guaranteed Access to Quality Care for All. Ensuring access to quality, evidence-based health care has been a top priority of NBCC and GBCC for many years and is an essential component of Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. There are a few concerns that the NBCC and GBCC have with the American Health Care Act (AHCA) expected to be voted on in the US House of Representatives on March 23:
- Rating Bands: The average age of diagnosis for breast cancer is 60. The AHCA would allow insurers to charge older Americans (60+) up to five times more than younger Americans, resulting in premiums rising 22%.
- Essential Health Benefits: The AHCA would potentially repeal certain standards about how much coverage insurers must provide for what are considered essential health care services in preventive care, including mammograms.
- Coverage Lapse Surcharges: Beginning in 2019 under the AHCA, a lapse in coverage of more than 63 days before reapplying for insurance would allow insurers to charge up to a 30% surcharge. Often, breast cancer patients stop working during treatment and many experience financial hardship due to costs such as co-pays and out of pocket expenses. A surcharge could result in additional financial burdens for these patients.
An amended bill (released late Monday evening) is still concerning to GBCC/NBCC because it ends traditional Medicaid by capping and cutting funding and leaves states shouldering far more costs than they do today. The bill goes to the House floor on March 23. GBCC urges all Georgians to educate themselves on what this bill means for them individually as well as for our state. All Georgians can contact their legislator and make their voices heard about how they feel regarding the AHCA. Together, we are GEORGIA’S VOICE to END BREAST CANCER!