U.S. House Approves Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Bill (dateline May 15, 2000)
The United States House of Representatives has approved legislation that would allow low-income women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer to receive treatment through expanded Medicare coverage. The bill, which must still be approved by the Senate and signed by the President, would provide $468 million in treatment benefits over five years. Currently, low-income women can receive free mammograms and Pap smears through a federally-funded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program, but are not eligible for funding if they are diagnosed with cancer as a result of those screenings.
The chief sponsor of the breast and cervical cancer treatment bill was North Carolina Representative Susan Myrick who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The new legislation proposes that the federal government pay 75% of cancer treatment expenses and the state contribute the remaining 25%.
The expanded Medicare coverage is expected to benefit 3.6 million women, specifically targeting uninsured women between the ages of 50 and 65 who earn less than $17,000 per year. Advocates of the bill say it is cruel for the government to pay for cancer screening but deny coverage for treatment.
The bill passed through the House with a vote of 421 to one. The single vote of opposition came from South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford whose aides said he believed the legislation would lead to new spending to cover the $468 million cost of the program without including cuts in other programs to offset spending. Representative Myrick said the bill would not increase government spending because offsets would be found as the legislation moves through Congress.
If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by the President, low-income women would be eligible for federally-funded breast or cervical cancer treatment if they participate in the CDC program that provides free mammograms and Pap smears. The program is currently available in 54 states and territories and 9 American Indian tribes or tribal organizations.
CDC is working with the American Cancer Society, the American Association of Retired Persons, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the YWCA of the USA, and other groups to expand the availability of early detection programs. Approximately 30,000 women have been diagnosed with cancer or pre-cancerous conditions under the program since 1990, but none were able to receive funding for treatment.
It is estimated that approximately 182,800 new cases of invasive breast cancer ( Stages I-IV ) will be diagnosed among women in the United States in 2000. Another 39,900 women will be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer. Approximately12,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will also be diagnosed in the United States in 2000.
In addition to providing funding for breast and cervical cancer treatment, the bill also requires the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the CDC to prepare educational materials on the human papillomavirus (HPV) to be distributed to health care providers and the public. HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease that puts women at high risk for cervical cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must also develop a warning label for condom boxes that says condoms are ineffective against the spread of HPV.
Additional Resources and References
- The May 10, 2000 Associated Press report, “Care For Poor,” is available at http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/DailyNews/medicaid000510.asp
- The May 9, 2000 Reuters Health report, “House Approves Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Bill,” is available at http://www.reutershealth.com/archive/2000/05/09/eline/links/20000509elin036.asp
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/