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House Approves Several Women’s, Children’s Health-Related Measures

Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act

On September 23, the House approved, 418-4, the Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act (H.R. 1014). The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on September 17 (see The Source, 9/19/08).

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), said, “This legislation was borne out of the realization that despite heart disease being the number one killer of women, too few people are aware of it. In 2006, only 21 percent of women identified heart disease as women’s greatest health problem, and too few people were aware that heart disease manifests itself differently in women than in men. The HEART for Women Act would improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women in three important ways. First, it would authorize educational campaigns aimed at health providers and older women to make them more aware of the risks for cardiovascular disease among women. Second, it will authorize the expansion of CDC’s [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] highly successful WISEWOMAN program…Finally, H.R. 1014 will improve the way we collect and analyze research data. By directing the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to collect data about safety and the efficacy of new and investigational drugs and devices according to gender, age, and racial subgroups we will help women and their health care providers better understand which course of treatment may yield the best outcome.”

 

Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) said, “The HEART for Women Act will be a vital step forward in addressing the disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke between men and women. Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women, both nationally and in my home state of California. They account for over 30 percent of all female deaths in California, and there are currently approximately 43 million adult women living with one or more forms of heart disease. These numbers are very telling about the need for this reporting and authorization. But to really understand the importance of this legislation, you must look at how this can affect the lives of any one of those 43 million women living with heart disease today. I personally have seen the effects it can have the struggles for the individual and the difficulties it can place on a family through the experiences of a longtime and valued member of my staff…For her and all women living with this disease, this legislation today is a triumph and a testament to their strength.”

Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act

The same day, the House also approved, 421-2, the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act (H.R. 758). The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on September 17 (see The Source, 9/19/08).

The bill would require individual and group health plans that provide medical and surgical benefits to provide coverage for inpatient, outpatient, and radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment. Health plans would be prohibited from restricting any hospital stay to less than 48 hours following a mastectomy or “breast conserving surgery,” or 24 hours “in connection with a lymph node dissection.” Health plans would be prohibited from requiring health care providers to obtain prior authorization for any such inpatient hospital stay.

Health plans would be required to provide notice to each enrollee regarding the hospital stay benefit and to provide for a second opinion by a specialist “to confirm or refute a diagnosis of cancer.”

The bill also would require health insurers that do not renew individual health insurance plan coverage to provide the enrollee with notice and an opportunity to have the non-renewal examined by an “independent, external third party.”

Speaking in support of her bill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said, “A mastectomy is not an easy surgery; it is physically and emotionally traumatic. That is what the Breast Cancer Patient Protection bill is all about. It says that when it comes to mastectomies and lumpectomies, adequate recovery time in the hospital should not be negotiable. The last thing any woman should be doing at that time is fighting with her insurance company…Some may argue that the time for a bill like this has already passed, that states are beginning to address the issue, but the truth is that drive-through mastectomies continue to today…I urge my colleagues to support the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act. Make this day a powerful turning point. We have a tremendous opportunity today to make it clear to women, to cancer patients, and to their families that we value your health.”

 

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) spoke about the provision allowing third party review of insurance non-renewal: “I had a situation in my district within the last several months where a woman had decided to move out of state to take care of her parents…She moved, took care of her family, came back to Texas, and in a routine examination discovered that she had breast cancer. Her doctor recommended an immediate mastectomy. And when they went to schedule that, the insurance coverer began to go through her insurance application with a fine tooth comb and finally canceled it based on the proposition that she had failed to inform, in her private application, the fact that several years before she had been treated briefly for hypertension and taken some blood pressure medicine. She was no longer being treated and was no longer under medicine, but the fact that she failed to state on her original application that she had been in the past, the insurance carrier canceled her policy…Under the bill before us that would no longer be possible. The coverage would continue in force. And if it was discovered that there was an intentional fraudulent omission, then the coverage could be canceled; but if that’s not the case, if it’s truly inadvertent, it’s not directly related, then you cannot cancel the insurance policy. This bill and this amendment, if the other body passes it and it becomes law, literally can save tens of thousands of women’s lives every year in America.”

Methamphetamine Free Families

Also on September 23, the House approved, by voice vote, the Meth Free Families and Communities Act (H.R. 6901). The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on September 17 (see The Source,9/19/08).

Sponsor Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) said, “Those of us in the west have long been familiar with the ways that meth has worked to destroy communities, families, and property. For over two decades as a county commissioner and as a member of Congress representing the mid-Willamette Valley and Oregon’s central coast, I’ve dealt with the fallout of meth production in small communities and rural areas where law enforcement and social services are stretched beyond their limit to handle this scourge.” She continued, “The second provision [of this legislation] will reauthorize an existing grant program for pregnant and parenting women so they can receive comprehensive, family-based substance abuse treatment. Congresswoman Cubin [R-WY] has led the way in fighting for the resources needed for this vital initiative. Too many children have gone into the foster system because their mothers are sent to jail for meth addiction. This initiative will provide treatment to pregnant and parenting women, which is much more effective for the mother and certainly cost effective and better for the child.”

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) said, “While we hail from different political parties, Representative Hooley and I are natural partners in the fight against meth. We both represent rural, western districts that have struggled with the horrible effects of the meth epidemic. We both feel that we need a comprehensive approach to fighting meth, including increased education, awareness, and treatment for the addicted…Too many young men and women in Wyoming are getting hooked on meth. In a survey conducted in my home state of Wyoming, nearly half of Wyoming’s young adults believe there are significant benefits to meth use, including weight loss and happiness. It’s this misperception that leads young people into the nightmare of meth.” She continued, “I crafted the provisions of H.R. 6901 that reauthorize the pregnant and parenting women grant program. These grants support family-based treatment centers, which meet the needs of the entire family mother, father, and children, rather than just the addict. This means healthy mothers, healthy fathers, and safe and healthy children. Every success story is one less family torn apart by meth.”

Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act 

On September 26, the House approved, by unanimous consent, the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act (H.R. 1283).

Sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the bill would require the secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and implement a National Arthritis Action Plan. The plan would consist of federal and state prevention activities, and national arthritis education outreach. The federal and state prevention activities would be funded by grants from the secretary to conduct and support research on arthritis, including developing data sets, conducting professional training, identifying evidence-based methods of treatment, and for demonstration projects, such as community- and patient-based methods of arthritis care. The bill would appropriate “such sums as may be necessary” for FY2008-2012 to carry out these activities.

The bill also would establish an Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases Interagency Coordinating Committee. Within one year of enactment, the committee would be required to convene a summit of researchers, public health professionals, federal and state policymakers, and health agencies to provide a “detailed overview” of current research activities at the National Institutes of Health and other federal institutes. The summit would be required to submit a report to Congress on their findings within 180 days of convening.

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