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Legislators Renew Effort to Support Breast Cancer Patients

Location: Washington, DC

Legislators Renew Effort to Support Breast Cancer Patients

U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) together with Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3) today renewed their support for breast cancer patients by reintroducing The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act -- legislation that has languished in Congress for over a decade due to the previous leadership in Congress. The act will ensure that breast cancer patients have access to appropriate health care by giving them an option of remaining in the hospital for up to 48 hours following a mastectomy with insurance coverage. Many women are forced to leave the hospital the same day as surgery because their insurance will not cover their stay.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately three million women living with breast cancer in the United States, and a woman in the United States has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.

"In no civilized country in the world should a mastectomy be an outpatient procedure," Sen. Landrieu said. "Medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by nameless, faceless file clerks following nameless, faceless guidelines. I have heard far too many stories from women and their families about being forced to leave the hospital too soon after a mastectomy, and it is long past time that Congress recognizes the importance of allowing a woman to stay in the hospital after this very difficult, both physically and emotionally, experience."

"We are renewing our effort today to ensure that the millions of American women diagnosed with breast cancer each year know they will receive the care they need and deserve," said Snowe. "Guaranteeing women have the option of remaining in the hospital for up to 48 hours following a mastectomy provides both the patient and the doctor with piece of mind and the time to make appropriate treatment decisions. It is inexplicable that the Congress has not taken action to ensure this basic right to adequate treatment, and I urge my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to enact this legislation immediately."

"After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a woman will work with her doctor to determine if a mastectomy is the best option and should have her hospital stay determined by her doctor -- not her insurance company. Yet many will be forced to leave the hospital when they are still in pain, groggy from anesthesia, and with drainage tubes that require professional attention because their HMO will not cover their stay," said DeLauro. "I have worked on the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act for an entire decade in this Congress, without a vote or hearing ever having been held. The time has come to pass this common-sense, compassionate legislation in support of women's health. When faced with a crisis like breast cancer, the last thing any woman should have to do is fight her insurance company for basic health care."

Over 14 million Americans have now signed a petition sponsored by Lifetime Television calling for passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act. The bill would ensure that women receive the appropriate care by:

* Guaranteeing a minimum hospital stay of 48 hours for a woman having a mastectomy or lumpectomy, and 24 hours for a woman undergoing a lymph node removal;

* Requiring health plans to include notice of these benefits in their monthly mailing and yearly information packet sent to plan participants;

* Requiring plans to provide full coverage of second opinions should the patient seek one.

This bill does not mandate a 48 hour hospital stay if a patient chooses to go home sooner, nor does it set 48 hours as a maximum amount of time a woman can stay in the hospital. It simply ensures that any decision in favor of a shorter or longer hospital stay will be made by the patient and her doctor, and not an insurance company.

The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act had 19 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate and 185 cosponsors in the U.S. House in the 109th Congress. The legislation was today reintroduced with 13 cosponsors in the Senate and 127 cosponsors in the House.

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