AABCP lights fire

Monday, April 23, 2012

HOUSTON – Supporters of a bill that would require Medicare to pay for custom breast forms have retooled their efforts.

The American Association of Breast Care Professionals (AABCP) recently formed a breast care coalition and hired the Washington, D.C.-based McGuireWoods Consulting to refocus lobbying efforts.

“We felt we just weren’t getting anywhere,” said Rhonda Turner, executive director of AABCP. “Even the support (we did have) was starting to slide. We really wanted to revamp everything.”

The Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act of 2011, S. 1217 and H.R. 2233, was introduced June 16, 2011, by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark. Although feedback from lawmakers has been largely positive, at press time, the bills had only five and 17 co-sponsors, respectively.

Turner thinks several factors may be to blame, including the potential cost of the bill, the general economic climate and a muddled message.

“Before, it was more of a ‘you should do this because it’s the right thing to do’ message,” she said. “We want to let people know that custom breast forms, like other options for treatment, are something they should be able to have the choice of, especially in the Medicare population.”

Another roadblock: There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity over the past year to get anything healthcare related done, said Stephanie Kennan, senior vice president at McGuireWoods. That could change toward year’s end, she said.

“There’s a perfect storm where you have the tax cuts expiring, you have the physician fix expiring—you have a number of things that have to be addressed and Congress can either kick some of it down the road or can address it in the longer term,” she said. “Whatever option they choose, they have to pass some kind of legislation.”

Another potential plus: With both of the bill’s sponsors retiring this year, there’s a definite impetus to get things moving sooner rather than later, Kennan said.

“I have talked to Congressman Ross’s staff, which said this is one of the bills he’d like to get done before he leaves,” she said. “There is an opportunity to get enough of leadership to support this if both members help and I think that they will.”