Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women combined in our country – a fact that’s difficult to accept given that it’s one of a limited number of cancers that can be prevented through screening.
Guest Post: New Prevention Services Bring Peace-of-Mind
I've shared my story with many people friends, family, fellow advocates but last week's event in Washington, D.C. was an experience I will never forget. On Aug. 1, a set of requirements took effect that new private health plans cover specific women's preventive services at no cost to patients. The requirements were included in the Women's Preventive Health Care Amendment to the Affordable Care Act. This was incredible news for women because now benefits that are important to preventing cancer and catching it early, such as annual well-women visits and HPV co-testing for cervical cancer, are free! To celebrate these new prevention services, the champion of the amendment, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, held a press conference in the U.S. Capitol building with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and several other senators, including my own Sen. Sherrod Brown. I was invited to share my story about my cancer experience, and how early detection saved my life. I am a three time cancer survivor two times with breast and one time with colorectal. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and colorectal cancer, I had a pretty good insurance plan and was able to access the best treatment options that saved my life. However, the third time I heard the words you have cancer the situation was drastically different. After my second cancer diagnosis, my employer asked me to go out and find health coverage on my own because I was costing other company employees on the insurance plan too much money. Since I didn't want to be a burden on my co-workers, I explored my options in the individual market. However, the insurance companies quoted me on average $1,650 per month. This cost was simply too high, and much more than I could pay for. After three months of no insurance and constant worry, I finally found a health insurance plan that I could afford. However, this plan left me with large gaps in coverage because of my pre-existing condition. It also had exclusions for cancer treatment and services. So when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 2010, the health plan said they wouldn't cover it. No one should have to experience that feeling, when you know you may be gambling with your health.It's bad enough that you have cancer, but then you also have to worry about the insurance companies cutting you off. Without access to coverage, cancer patients can't get the care they need to fight for their lives. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I now have some peace-of-mind. I no longer have to worry about lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions for me or my kids. I no longer have to worry about delaying my check-ups because I can't afford it. Part of having access to coverage is making sure prevention is affordable. Because of the new benefits that went into effect on Aug. 1, women will be able to visit the doctor to get their clinical breast exam for free. I'm comforted to know that when my kids and kidlets need to go get their annual check-ups and recommended cancer screening tests, they'll know they can access these lifesaving services at no cost. In 2010, my doctor discovered what turned out to be my second bout with breast cancer during my regular check-up. I can't say it enough prevention is key to saving lives. This is why I continue to be an active cancer advocate with the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to ensure my family and other families around the country don't have to experience what I had to. It is important that Congress continue to protect prevention and women's health. The lives of many women like me across the country are counting on it.