Stakeholders seek to fast track two women’s health bills

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Friday, March 8, 2019

WASHINGTON – With extensive groundwork laid in past sessions of Congress, stakeholders hope this is the year that bills seeking Medicare coverage for custom breast forms and compression garments for lymphedema get passed.

“We are encouraged by the reception—maybe we can do the right thing for women,” said Tom Powers, director of government relations for VGM. “There’s a lot of interest in passing good public policy.”

Similar versions of the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act, H.R. 1370 and S. 562, and The Lymphedema Treatment Act, S. 518—all introduced in February—have been introduced in the past and have received bipartisan support.

“Breast cancer tends to be a bipartisan issue,” said Nikki Jensen, vice president of Essentially Women. “Breast cancer, unfortunately, has touched so many lives across the country that it is very much an issue near and dear to everybody’s heart.”

The previous custom breast forms bill was introduced late in the last session and served as more of a “placeholder” to allow stakeholders to lay some groundwork for this year.

“We were shopping it around to get a sense of Congress and what it might look like if we shot it out this year,” said Powers. “It’s been our strategy to go to people that (we have) not reached out to—new members or members that haven’t really been involved in co-sponsoring healthcare legislation and women’s health issues in the past.”

Essentially Women also planned an email push for its new campaign for custom breast forms, #LetHerDecide, to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.

“We ask for support for members of Congress to recognize that we are seeking equality for women and with that we look to the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act to allow women to have the choice of custom breast prostheses after mastectomy,” said Jensen.

The previous compression garments bill, introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2017, racked up 385 and 66 co-sponsors, respectively; S. 518 is already at 40 co-sponsors, said Jensen.

“That’s very encouraging and makes us feel optimistic the bill will get passed this time,” she said.