Desperate Housewives star fights for Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Bree Hodge (who used to be Bree Van de Kamp before her husband was poisoned and she remarried) is fighting alcoholism and the growing estrangement of her son while trying to keep up appearances on Wisteria Lane. She’s also faking a pregnancy, and plans to raise her teenage daughter’s illegitimate baby as her own.

    Is this for real? Not unless you believe everything you see on TV. Bree is a character played by actress Marcia Cross on “Desperate Housewives,” one of the world’s most popular television shows, with an estimated audience of roughly 20 million viewers a week. Which is the same number of signatures–20 million–that women’s cable network Lifetime has gathered, in the past 12 years, on a petition to be presented to Capitol Hill lawmakers urging them to support the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007, a bill to eliminate so-called “drive-through mastectomies.” Now Cross, shedding her TV persona, has stepped up to personally champion the bill, traveling to Washington yesterday to meet with members of Congress and to film a public service announcement pushing for its passage.
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    Maybe Cross will succeed where years and years of efforts by others have failed. Perhaps you recall receiving an email (or two, or five, or 100) urging you to “click here” to put an end to “drive-through mastectomies.” That huge viral marketing campaign was organized by, Lifetime's Web site. For the past 12 years, the site has been collecting signatures on a petition to ban the common insurance industry practice of sending women home from the hospital 24 hours or less after having had a mastectomy. Lifetime began gathering those signatures in 1995; the following year, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduced legislation to ban the practice. And for the past 12 years, the bill has languished. Finally, it looks like it has a fighting chance of passing.

    If you’ve had a mastectomy, no doubt you remember it vividly: the pain, the drains, the stiffness and, most of all, the shock of looking at your chest and seeing a flat, bloody bandage where a full breast used to be. So, you’re supposed to go right home and resume your “normal” life, in less than a day? Even if you’re a young single mom with kids to carry and cook for, or an older woman living alone, barely able to get around even without having had major surgery? According to the insurance companies–yes. Toughen up, ladies. We’re not running a luxury spa here. 24 hours should be plenty of time to heal from that huge slash across your torso, plus get over the emotional shock of your new “lopsided” topography.

    Now, that’s just plain wrong. And the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007 aims to right that wrong. Specifically, the act would allow a woman and her doctor to decide whether she needs to remain in the hospital for at least 48 hours after either a mastectomy, or a lumpectomy; if so, insurance would have to pay for it.

    Rep. DeLauro, an ovarian cancer survivor, is trying to push the bill through the House, while Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is championing it in the Senate. DeLauro said the bill has 204 bi-partisan co-sponsors; it needs 218 to guarantee passage. DeLauro hopes that, with the publicity engendered by one “desperate housewife’s” involvement, those last 14 co-sponsors will sign on. Meredith Wagner, executive vice president of public affairs for Lifetime and one of the chief architects of the signature drive, said “We feel a huge responsibility to our viewers. We have to make this bill a reality.”

  • Want to be part of the final effort to get this critical bill passed? Sign the petition at Lifetime. Let’s make this happen–finally.
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Published On: January 24, 2008