Bill Seeks To Reduce Breast Cancer Health Disparities Among Illinois Minority Women
Illinois lawmakers recently unanimously passed a bill (HB 5192) that seeks to reduce breast cancer health disparities among minority and immigrant women, the Chi-Town Daily News reports. Lawmakers, including state Rep. Greg Harris (D), were prompted to write the legislation after a 2007 report by the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force found that minority women are dying at higher rates of the disease than white women. According to the study, the breast cancer mortality rate for black women in Chicago was 68% higher than that of white women based on statistics between 1980 and 2003.
To address the disparity, the bill would:
- Increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for mammograms and screenings;
- Give Medicaid providers bonus payments for using best practices in screening and treatment;
- Require insurers to cover pain medication for women undergoing breast cancer treatment;
- Improve access to screening and eliminate copayments for mammograms;
- Establish two statewide patient navigator pilot programs that will train professionals to help patients coordinate care; and
- Increase breast cancer health education.
According to Harris, the cost of the bill has not been determined, as it will be merged with an already existing breast cancer screening program. Nancy Amicangelo, executive director of breast cancer outreach for the Illinois chapter of Network of Strength, said that if enacted, the law would improve trust in the community. "There's a lot of mistrust out there. That's a tough barrier," she said. "The medical system and the state have let them down many times. It's very hard to get that trust back," she added.
Amicangelo said that it is important to inform women of the resources available to them, especially undocumented immigrants who face more complicated barriers. "A lot of these women, once they're diagnosed, they have no idea what to do and what resources are available to them," she said, adding, "If it's really robust, the benefits could be invaluable" (Parker, Chi-Town Daily News, 2/23). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.