Breast cancer occurs in both men and women and is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. Breast cancer affects the lives of thousands in Florida. In fact, nearly 3,000 women lost their lives to breast cancer in Florida in a single year.
To raise awareness for the issue of breast cancer, the Florida Capitol is lit in pink throughout the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Additionally, legislation has been proposed for the 2020 legislative session that would make breast cancer treatments easier and more affordable.
The capitol building is lit up by pink lights, embracing the symbolic color of breast cancer awareness. It is a sign to all who have been affected by breast cancer that the Florida Capital stands with them and recognizes the impact of policy on breast cancer treatment.
Florida House Bill 263 and Florida Senate Bill 416 are companion bills proposed that are meant to increase access to diagnostic breast cancer tests. SB 416 was introduced by Sen. Lori Berman, D- Boynton Beach. HB 263 was introduced by Rep. Kamia Brown, D- Ocoee.
Berman herself is a breast cancer survivor and said in an interview with ABC Action News that she wants to “ensure all Floridians have the same life-saving access to care that my grandmother and I had.”
Under these bills, insurance policies and health maintenance contracts that provide coverage for mammograms, breast imaging scans, and breast ultrasounds cannot require cost-sharing for these tests ordered by a health care provider. Cost-sharing is when patients must pay for a portion of treatment which insurance doesn’t cover, also known as “out-of-pocket” payments.
Florida House Bill 261 was also introduced by Brown and involves coverage for stage four metastatic cancer (cancer which spreads to distant regions of the body). This bill would prohibit what is known as “step therapy,” meaning insurance companies will only cover certain drugs after the patient has failed to respond to a different drug. With step therapy, insurance companies would require patients to try a cheaper drug first before a more expensive drug would be covered.
HB 261 also stipulates that insurers may not refuse coverage for drugs treating metastatic cancer, which are recognized in medical literature but have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment. This will ensure that patients will have easier access to critical treatment.
These bills will make it easier for people with lower socioeconomic status to receive proper care. Additionally, it has the potential to close the disparity gap between minority and white deaths caused by breast cancer.
Breast cancer occurs at highest rates in non-Hispanic white women, yet the death rate due to breast cancer is higher in Hispanic and non-Hispanic black female populations. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Hispanic women and the second leading cause of death in non-Hispanic black women, according to the CDC. Brown believes the disparity could be due to the high cost of receiving treatment, which can be a significant burden to families and individuals.
Brown said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post that “there are barriers for those families who cannot afford to spend $6,000 to $8,000 [for treatment] and these costs are continually adding up…When you’re looking at any minority women, a lot of time that barrier deals with detecting and finding out ahead of time.”
For those in support of the proposed legislation, this could be a step in the right direction for providing accessible healthcare to thousands in Florida seeking breast cancer treatment and detection services.
Featured Photo: Florida State Capitol in 2018. (Unmodified photo by David Wilson used under a Creative Commons license. https://bit.ly/2BMbwse)