October 04,2000

Senate Approves Breast Cancer Bill

WASHINGTON -- By unanimous consent, the full Senate today approved S. 662, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act which creates an optional new Medicaid eligibility category for low income women who receive a diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer through a federal screening program. The bill was approved by the Finance Committee by voice vote on June 14, 2000. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) submitted the following statement to the record:

"I am pleased that the Senate has passed legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of lower-income women faced with a terrifying diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer.

"Ten years ago, Congress created the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, through the Centers for Disease Control, to help lower-income women receive the early detection services that are the best protection against breast and cervical cancer. This important program has served more than a million women in subsequent years. However, the screening program does not include a treatment component. Instead, women who receive a cancer diagnosis must rely on informal networks of donated care.

"Last year, Senator John Chafee introduced S. 662, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act, to make it easier for women facing breast and cervical cancer to receive necessary treatment - and I think each and every one of us shares that important goal.

"S. 662 makes treatment available through the Medicaid program. Now, maybe some of us would have approached the problem differently. I think there are very valid concerns about creating disease-specific eligibility categories within the Medicaid program.

"However, despite those concerns, I am pleased that the Senate passed S. 662 because we are dealing with a thoroughly unique set of circumstances. The new Medicaid eligibility category created in S. 662 is specifically linked to a unique and existing federal screening program and must not, and will not, be viewed as a precedent for extending Medicaid eligibility body-part by body-part.

"Instead, today the Senate fulfills a promise made nearly 10 years ago. We are saying to lower-income, uninsured women that we will continue to help you access the preventive health care services you need. But now, through S. 662, our commitment to you will not stop with screening. If problems are found, the federal government stands ready to work with the states to make sure you receive the treatment you need to get well.

"I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for joining me in supporting this important legislation, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to quickly reconcile the differences between our bills so we can see this necessary legislation signed into law this year."