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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, approximately 211,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. No doubt, you know one of these women. In fact, they may be your sister, mother, aunt, cousin or dear friend. In most cases, the doctor will prescribe immediate and often times aggressive treatment in the hopes of stalling further progression of the disease. The quality of care that breast cancer patients receive is critically important to their survival. Despite the urgent need for Federal protections to ensure that breast cancer sufferers receive appropriate treatment, very few exist.

It may shock you to learn that women who have undergone surgical treatments such as breast removal mastectomy--or lymph node dissections are being sent home within hours of having surgery because insurance companies are unwilling to reimburse recovery time in hospitals, a practice referred to as ``Drive-Through Mastectomies.'' These women have reported being sent home still drowsy from anesthesia, weakened from hours of surgery, and with drainage tubes attached to their bodies, while simultaneously experiencing the immense emotional trauma associated with the removal of a breast or lymph nodes.

To this end, I am pleased to have worked with Senator Snowe to introduce the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005. This legislation will prevent insurance companies from restricting hospital stays resulting from mastectomies to less than 48 hours and hospital stays resulting from lymph node dissections to less than 24 hours. This bill does not prevent a doctor from discharging a woman prior to these minimum requirements, if he/she determines, in consultation with the patient, that this is the best treatment option. The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act simply ensures that these types of medical decisions are made by doctors, not insurance companies. The legislation also prohibits insurance companies from circumventing the legislation through practices such as providing incentives to doctors or patients to reduce length of stays associated with mastectomies or lymph node dissections.

To be fair, we must acknowledge that this legislation will not change the nature of mastectomies and lymph node dissections for the majority of women. Over 19 States have already put State laws in place that work to the same end as the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, and the vast majority of insurance companies have already responded on their own to this problem. However, this is a case in which the injustice, while small in number of women it affects, is clear. And just as the injustice is apparent, the solution is simple. It is high time that the Federal Government took action. Yes, many states have already done so, and yes, many insurance companies have, too, but if even one woman is forced to go home too soon after such an invasive surgery, that is one woman too many. It is not the fact that this is happening to many women, it is the fact that it is happening to any women. For all of our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, friends, and loved ones, it is time for us to provide the needed protections. I ask for your support of the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005.


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