Isn’t it logical that health care should be about improving a patient’s health? “Non-medical switching” is a heartbreaking example of when it isn’t. It is the term used to describe how patients, oftentimes with chronic illnesses, are forced by their insurance plan to take less expensive medications that, studies show, are often less effective. It takes medical decision-making out of the hands of doctors and patients. The decisions are made by patients’ insurance companies. Insurance companies are the only winners.
This year, more than 40,000 American women will die of breast cancer. Over 250,000 will get the devastating news that they have the disease. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Colorado women. One in seven women in our state will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Those are startling statistics.
For women who find a lump in their breast or get that horrifying call from the doctor after a mammogram, lives change dramatically. I have suffered that heart-wrenching experience.
As a breast cancer survivor, I accepted the opportunity to be the chief executive of the Denver-based non-profit Susan G. Komen Colorado in April, and I am dedicated to doing everything I can to fight the disease and save lives.
We strongly believe that quality care for breast cancer should not be dependent upon ability to pay, race, ethnicity, language spoken, sexual orientation, gender affiliation, or age. It is important to know that about one percent of all breast cancer cases are found in men.
Breast cancer afflicts people of all ages. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of Veep and Seinfeld, revealed in September that she has breast cancer at 56. Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon learned she had cancer in 2002 at 40. Puerto Rican actress Adamari Lopez was 34 when she was diagnosed. She partners with Orgullosa and Liga Contra el Cáncer to create a positive and supportive dialogue for Latinas on the importance of early breast cancer detection.
Last month, in celebration of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, country pop singer and songwriter Kelsea Ballerini and 10-year-old Chrissy Turner flipped a switch and the Grand Ole Opry’s backdrop turned pink in support of the fight against breast cancer. Chrissy was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was eight. Eight years old!
Komen Colorado’s primary focus is to provide grants to local non-profit organizations to ensure uninsured and underinsured Colorado women and men can get the screening mammograms, diagnostic procedures, and treatment they need if they’re diagnosed with the disease. The generosity of our donors funds research into not only the cancer’s cause and prevention but its diagnosis, treatment, and cure. With the exception of our government, over our history, Komen has been the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research in the world.
Locally, we are proud to have invested more than $42 million into more than 120 local non-profit organizations operating in the 22 counties we serve since we were founded in 1991. In 2017, we awarded $662,000 in grants to 14 Colorado-based non-profit organizations, health clinics, and hospitals to pay for breast exams, mammograms, diagnostic procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and financial support for those undergoing treatment. New tools and technology lead to earlier diagnoses. New therapies have significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
Early detection methods include clinical breast exam and mammograms. Access to these detection methods is dependent on health care. Health care is dependent on health insurance. You can find a guide to reviewing health insurance policies on Komen’s national website at https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/EvaluatingInsurance.html.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance plans must cover 100% of the costs of screening mammograms, including for people at increased risk, as well as genetic testing and counseling. The ACA also requires insurance plans to cover treatment for those diagnosed, as well as reconstructive surgery — subject to coinsurance requirements like meeting annual deductibles. The ACA prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions like those living with breast cancer or on hormone therapy to prevent recurrence.
If you need health insurance, open enrollment to purchase plans through Connect for Health Colorado started November 1 and continues until December 15, for coverage beginning January 1, 2018.
Breast cancer survivors will tell you that it is a fight we did not pick and a fight that takes everything you have. I know. That is why I’m so proud of the work Komen is doing to reduce those devastating statistics and fighting for, and with, Coloradans with breast cancer.
Last week the leadership of the General Assembly approved my request for an interim committee, to meet between the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions, to study the client notifications and client correspondence sent by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
For years, I have received complaints from Coloradans all around the state, documented by actual letters from HCPF, that show we have a real, live bureaucratic nightmare in our state government.