Policy Initiatives & Advocacy
The Task Force continually looks for new ways to shape public policy in a way that will reduce disparities in breast cancer. Over the past few years, we have pursued a number of important initiatives:
2014-2015 Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force Policy Agenda
1. Educate and advocate for the Breast Cancer Excellence in Screening and Treatment Act (BEST Act, HB6285).
Survival from breast cancer has improved tremendously over the past 20 years, but not for African American and low-income women. Several recent studies have identified many factors contributing to the continuation of breast cancer disparities in Chicago. HB6285 will reduce barriers for at-risk populations to receive needed services to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages and prevent missed diagnosis. The Bill ensures that populations most vulnerable for breast cancer (i.e., high risk for breast cancer, young breast cancer survivors, publicly insured women) have access to optimal screening, testing and treatment services to meet the American Cancer Society's guidelines. We will advocate for state legislators to support HB6285.
2. Educate and advocate for affordable breast cancer treatment medication (SB3395 and HB6277).
Insurance companies have increased co-payments for many medicines by adding a ‘specialty tier' category of medicines. Medications on this specialty tier are needed for life threatening or debilitating disease, including breast cancer treatment medication. The medication can cost a patient between 25-50% of the drug's total cost each month. Skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs put lifesaving medications out of reach for women with breast cancer, especially low income women. High price medication can result in patients' stopping their treatment, compromising their health and lives. SB 3395 and HB6277 would amend the Illinois Insurance Code to limit a patient's out-of-pocket cost for copayment and coinsurance costs for their prescribed specialty drugs. We will advocate for state legislators to support SB3395 and HB6277.
3. Monitor the effectiveness of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program; increase funding if necessary.
The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) has sustained budgets cuts for the past three years leaving many Illinois women on a waiting list for mammograms. Funding for IBCCP has run out only 4 months into the fiscal program year. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) believed that the institution of the Affordable Care Act(ACA) will offset the cuts to IBCCP for fiscal year 2014. Unfortunately, only 26% of IBCCP participants signed up for an insurance plan through ACA. We are concerned that funding for IBCCP may run out before ACA is fully implemented. We will monitor the effectiveness of IBCCP under the current budget and notify IDPH of issues and concerns. We will also advocate for restoration and increases of funding to IBCCP if necessary.
4. Make amendment to City of Chicago Retired Employee Health Plan to ensure basic screenings, including mammograms are covered.
Under the current health plan for City of Chicago retired employees, women are not covered to receive a screening mammogram. The health plan holds grandfathered status and avoids the mandates of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to cover preventative screenings and services including mammograms. It is recommended that women over the age of 40 receive a mammogram every year. The city of Chicago has very low screening rates compared to cities of similar size. The current health plan of the Retired City Employees forces many women to pay out of pocket for screenings or go without the recommended screening. We are asking the City of Chicago to make amendments to the healthcare plan for retired employees to ensure preventative services including mammograms are covered.
5. Increase funding/resources to increase the effectiveness of CDPH clinics and mammography services.
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) previously provided mammogram screenings in five of their neighborhood clinics. Only two of the five mammography machines are digital and the 3 analog machines were often broken. At our urging, they have finally closed the 3 analog machines. In addition to equipment issues, CDPH no longer has the ability to enroll women in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. In defunding the city, the state mentioned quality issues including unlicensed personnel performing medical procedures such as Clinical Breast Exams. We believe women using the City of Chicago Clinics will be better served by utilizing high-quality screening centers across the city or having those centers run the digital facilities at CDPH. We are asking the Chicago Department of Public Health to contract out breast cancer screening services to a high quality breast cancer screening centers to provide women with access to quality screenings. We are also asking aldermen to ensure adequate city funding for mammography in the city budget. To date, the City has agreed to contract with Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, an American College of Radiology Breast Center of Imaging Excellence and the largest IBCCP provider in the state. We encourage them to look for additional high quality partners.