On Tuesday evening the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation to help low-income women pay for the treatment of breast and cervical cancer. The vote on the bill was 421-1.
The bill paves the way for states to provide Medicaid coverage to uninsured women whose cancer is diagnosed through the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early
Detection Program. (Read about the program in today's Vidyya). The CDC program has been criticized for providing screening but no means of treatment.
The Breast And Cervical Cancer Treatment Bill did not pass without its share of controversy. The first draft of the bill was approved in committee as early as the summer of 1999. However, the committee version was not the measure that was voted on 09 May 2000. Republicans reintroduced the bill with two new sponsors--breast cancer survivors Sue Myrick, R-N.C. and Pat Danner, D-Mo. The new bill eliminated the original version's provision for enhanced matching funds for states that opted to provide coverage to low-income women. This move met with heavy criticism. Without the matching funds--the main incentive for states to participate-the measure was rendered useless.
Members of the National Breast Cancer Coalition flooded Congressional offices with phone calls criticizing the new version of the bill. The enhanced funding was finally restored, but not until the effective date was moved back to 2001 in order to make up for a lack of funding in the current 2000 budget.
HR 1070 is not well received among health professionals. Language added by physician and state of Oklahoma representative, Tom Coburn, calls for labels to be placed on condoms informing people that condoms do not protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the strongly suspected cause of cervical cancer. Coburn also wants HPV to become a reportable disease in order to "inform individuals that the risk of HPV is out there."
In response, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released statements opposing the HPV provisions. ACOG feels the HPV language to be medically inappropriate for two reasons. 1) The language might actually discourage condom use against other viruses, such as HIV and 2) Making HPV a reportable STD unfairly stigmatizes women. There is currently no approved test to detect HPV in men.
Read the actual bill in its entirety and decide for yourself if the controversy is warranted.