Legislation Bans "Drive-Through Masectomies"
At long last, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act on Thursday, by a near-unanimous vote of 421-2. This bill, which still must win approval in the Senate, prohibits the long-decried insurance company practice of refusing to cover an overnight hospital stay for mastectomy surgery, thereby forcing sick, groggy, bleeding women to go home and suffer without medical care.
Way back in 1995, women’s cable network Lifetime began gathering online signatures for a petition to be presented to Capitol Hill lawmakers urging them to support the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, a bill to eliminate so-called “drive-through mastectomies.” 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.
And what about women with complications? With an infection, a hematoma, or severe pain? Do they have to pack up their bags and go home when the 48-hour deadline looms? No, not at all. The bill simply takes away from insurance companies the responsibility for deciding how long a woman should remain in the hospital; and puts it back where it belongs, with the woman and her doctor, who know what’s best for her health.
A year after Lifetime started its unprecedented viral marketing campaign, Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-Connecticut), herself an ovarian cancer survivor, officially introduced legislation to ban the practice. Since then, she’s worked long and hard championing the bill. Despite DeLauro’s efforts, the bill has languished in Washington for 12 years.
Meanwhile, its advocates waged a tireless online effort to collect support. No doubt you’ve received one of those emails sometime over the past decade or so: “click here to end drive-through mastectomies.” You clicked, you signed… and if you’ve had a mastectomy, you sighed, and wondered how the insurance companies had been able to foist such barbaric and cruel policies off on the public for so long.
23 million online signatures later, the bill has taken a giant leap towards becoming law. It still must pass muster in the Senate, where Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., have introduced companion legislation. But with support from the American Cancer Society, Komen for the Cure, and other “big dogs” in the cancer community, the bill seems poised for passage.