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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Affordable Care Act: A New Tool in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act is upping the ante on breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts?
Mammogram machineAccording to breastcancer.org, about one in eight U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes. In 2011 alone, it was estimated that nearly 230,000 women were diagnosed with some form of the disease, and tens of thousands of women lost their lives to it. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women and one of the most deadly cancers among our mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. But it doesn’t have to be. Raising awareness about breast cancer, educating women about effective preventive health practices and increasing access to doctors and routine mammograms can reduce the cost, hardship, and lives lost to this all-too-common form of cancer. And this is precisely what theAffordable Care Act is doing for women all across the country.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) toaward grants to fund breast cancer education and awareness campaigns across the country. The Act also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with the CDC, to establish an advisory committee on breast cancer and to launch a breast cancer awareness and education campaign, targeting young women with information about prevention and early detection. The law also authorizes the CDC to conduct research to better understand the disease, as well as the most effective prevention and awareness-raising efforts.
The CDC states that mammograms can detect breast cancer up to three years before it can be felt. And according to Health and Human Services, 3,700 lives would be saved every year if 90 percent of women 40 years old and up received routine breast cancer screenings. It is no secret that educating women about the importance and effectiveness of early detection is crucial to reducing the prevalence and mortality rates of breast cancer. 
However, this isn’t just an awareness issue. Especially in today’s economy, the financial cost of a routine mammogram—let alone making a visit to the doctor—is high enough to deter women from getting their necessary check-ups. The Affordable Care Act works to solve this problem for many American women. The health reform law is making women’s preventive health care affordable by requiring health insurance companies to cover certain preventive health services, like routine mammograms, free of co-pay for individuals with new or “non-grandfathered” plans. This means that any woman with a health insurance plan that is new or has changed significantly since March 23, 2010, can receive necessary routine mammograms without having to pay any money out of pocket for the procedure. Yearly well-woman check-ups will soon be free, too, giving women a chance to speak to their doctors about their health without worrying about their bank accounts.
The Affordable Care Act, referred to in the media by “Obamacare”, is also making strides for women who currently battling breast cancer and those who are survivors. Thanks to “Obamacare’s” many new consumer protections, insurance companies are no longer able to place lifetime limitson insurance policies, and in 2014, they will no longer be able to place annual limits on coverage, meaning people everywhere can rest easy knowing that the health insurance they pay for will be there for them when they need it most. Also in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against anybody for having a pre-existing condition, like breast cancer, which means that women will no longer be denied coverage or charged a higher rate because they’ve fallen victim to cancer.
Breast cancer affects women and men of all races and ethnicities, but did you know that African American women are at a greater risk than any other race of dying from breast cancer in America? Find information on how the Affordable Care Act is working to reduce health disparities like this one across the country online.
For information on what you can do to stay ahead of breast cancer and on top of your health, visit the American Cancer Society online. For more in-depth information about breast cancer, like risks, treatments, and support, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website.
Coauthored by Rachel Gielau and Caitlin Padula
This post was originally posted at The Shriver Brief, as a part of their weekly "Did You Know?" blog series that highlights important, but not well known, features of the health reform law about prevention, wellness, and personal responsibility for our health.

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