Hurd on the Hill: Tackling Breast Cancer Together
The month of October brings with it many recognizable trends: the early signs of fall, stores filled with Halloween décor, pumpkin patches and pink ribbons – the universal symbol for breast cancer awareness.
Each of us knows someone who has battled cancer. And specific types of the disease can be particularly devastating. One in every eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and although it is much rarer in men, one in 833 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer as well. We see these statistics come to life right here in the Lone Star State. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Texas women, and nearly 18,000 Texas women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. As we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout October, all of our loved ones face these daunting statistics.
While the emotional cost of cancer is immeasurable, the financial burden continues to increase. In 2018, the cost of care for patients with breast cancer across the U.S. was an estimated $19,700,000, according to the National Cancer Institute. These costs can make a terrible diagnosis that much more of challenge for families. And the cycle of treatment, bills and fighting over costs and coverage results in a process that is simply unacceptable. This is why I have been fighting for my constituents since the day I came into office to ensure that those battling cancer not only get access to high quality care but that it comes with the most accurate information for care options so patients and families can make the best-informed decisions.
In my first year in Congress, I supported the 21st Century Cures Act which authorized $6.3 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health Innovation Project (NIHIP). Through this bipartisan bill, the NIHIP has been able to complete groundbreaking research and add additional forms of therapy for all cancer patients. The 21st Century Cures Act also streamlined the cycle of creation so new remedies and treatments aren’t bottled up in years of approvals and litigation.
Access to care matters. In many rural parts of TX-23 folks have to drive up to 2 hours to get to a hospital that can treat them. On top of that, the waiting period for Medicare or Social Security Disability Assistance (SSDI) assistance can take months if not over a year to come through. That’s why I support the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act to eliminate the 5-month waiting period for SSDI benefits and the 24-month period for Medicare eligibility for cancer patients under the age of 65 with metastatic breast cancer. These are common sense reforms where a change in law can make all the difference to patient care.
I am also proud to cosponsor the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and the Know the Lowest Price Act, which require pharmacists to let their patients know if it’s cheaper to pay for a prescription out of pocket or through their insurance. When I crisscross TX-23 I hear from constituents about the burdens they face to be able to afford the medicine they need. These two vital bills help patients across South and West Texas and the nation receive the most transparency from their pharmacist and better equip them to get the most affordable prescription needed.
Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2019 which would ensure that all anticancer medications are treated equally in determining cost sharing with insurance companies. Currently patients often pay a large portion of the cost for oral or self-administered anticancer drugs than IV medication which prevents patients from pursuing the best treatment plan for their disease or facing steeps costs. The sense of urgency behind the race for the cure is because patients need solutions now, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress toward any step we can take in the name of care. One day I hope this research we have funded finds that groundbreaking solution that rids the world of this terrible disease.
As always, my team and I are here to serve you. If you are having issues with Medicare, Social Security or any federal agency please do not hesitate to contact my office at 210-921-3130.