From the NFL playing fields to the aisles of your grocery store, you may have noticed the prevalence of the color pink in the past few weeks. That’s because with over 220,000 women in the U.S. diagnosed each year, we recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
But simply wearing a pink ribbon is not enough to help save the lives of nearly 40,000 women who die each year from this disease. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And although we have made great strides in the survival rates for this disease, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in mortality among women.
We need to do more to find a cure for this disease. I have supported efforts to expand access to affordable health screenings like mammograms. As co-chair of the Congressional Prevention Caucus, I understand just how important preventive care is for long-term health and well-being. Catching a disease in its early stages can mean the difference between life and death.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included important provisions to expand access to affordable healthcare services like mammograms and other cancer screenings. Thanks to the new health care law, all Medicare beneficiaries – meaning 24.7 million women – now have access to preventive care and services without any co-pay, coinsurance, or deductible.
And beginning in August, insurance companies are required to cover 22 additional preventive services for women, free of charge. These include cancer screenings, yearly checkups, support for breastfeeding equipment, contraception, and domestic violence screening and counseling. This provision will be effective for existing policies at their first renewal date on or after August 1, 2012.
Unfortunately, while the new health care law provided 45 million women, both young and old, access to preventive care, Republicans in the House voted more than 30 times to repeal the law and turn back the clock on women’s health.
And they didn’t stop with ACA. Last Congress, Republicans voted to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood health centers across the country. In doing so Republicans would have immediately cut access to the more than 830,000 breast exams performed each year at Planned Parenthood centers. In Virginia alone, these clinics see over 28,500 patients a year.
Access to health care, particularly for the 76 percent of Planned Parenthood clients who are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, should not be held hostage to make a political statement.
Though we take the month of October to increase awareness of breast cancer, our efforts to reduce its incidence and increase the chances of full recovery do not end on the 31st. I will continue fighting against efforts to deny life-saving services to women.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.