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ASPS Secures Passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act

After four years of persistent advocacy, one of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' top priority bills, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act (BCEPA), was passed by Congress on December 18th through the FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill and was signed into law by President Obama the same day. In 2015, ASPS made its strongest push ever for passage of this important bi-partisan bill, with more congressional meetings, greater coalition support, first-time industry support and an advanced membership grassroots campaign. This increased advocacy placed unprecedented pressure on Congress to provide meaningful education about breast reconstruction for patients facing a breast cancer diagnosis.

ASPS on the Hill

In an effort to build momentum for this bill during the 114th Congress, ASPS conducted individual meetings with 85 congressional offices to discuss the importance of the BCPEA and to gain additional cosponsors. Early in 2015, ASPS identified key members of Congress within committees of importance and in influential caucuses, including the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the GOP Doctor's Caucus. Through these meetings, 12 members signed on as first time cosponsors of the bill in the House and the Senate. Additional cosponsorship of the bill is a vital sign to party and committee leadership that the bill has support among rank-and-file members and should be moved forward.

Advocacy at the ASPS Fly-Ins

In June and November 2015, 37 members from 17 states attended the ASPS Fly-Ins in Washington, DC to meet their Congressional representatives and talk to them about high priority issues for plastic surgeons and their patients. While various issues were discussed during the Fly-Ins - including medical liability reform, the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and funding for medical innovation - the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act was a high priority issue during Congressional meetings. ASPS members explained the impact of the BCPEA, highlighting the importance of breast reconstruction following mastectomy and the varying degree of knowledge about the procedure among different patient demographics. During these two Fly-Ins, ASPS members met with 76 congressional offices and gained 10 new cosponsors for the bill in the House and the Senate. ASPS extends its sincere thanks to those who left their practice, family and friends to join us in Washington, DC and advocate on behalf of the specialty.

The Impact of Member Grassroots Advocacy

Throughout 2015, ASPS hosted numerous opportunities for ASPS members to write to Congress, express their support for the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, and ask that their members of Congress become a cosponsor of the bill. Grassroots advocacy letter writing campaigns in May, July, and October resulted in 125 letters sent to members of Congress asking that they support this important measure. This grassroots advocacy is an essential part of ASPS's advocacy work and demonstrates to Congress that their constituents are truly committed to the issue. Special thanks to the members who took the time to write to their member of Congress about the BCPEA during 2015. Your advocacy and interest in this issue was a critical part of this bill's success.

BCPEA Coalition

Following original introduction of the bill in 2012, ASPS launched the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act Coalition, comprised of patient advocacy groups with a primary focus on breast cancer awareness. This year, ASPS engaged other medical specialty organizations and many national breast cancer advocacy groups for the first time. As a result, 2015 marked unprecedented support for the coalition through continuous communication and extended outreach to these other health care organizations. In addition, a greater number of state, regional and local plastic surgery societies joined the coalition and advocated on behalf of patients in their state. While the BCPEA Coalition enjoyed the participation of 27 member organizations in 2014, the 2015 coalition was comprised of 40 national and regional member organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen.

First-Time Industry Support

For the first time, ASPS engaged our industry partners and asked them to include the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act in their regular advocacy efforts with Congress. Allergan, LifeCell, Galatea, and AirXpanders all committed to actively engaging Congress about the importance of breast reconstruction awareness. In fact, AirXpanders furthered their commitment to the cause by working with a DC-based patient advocacy consultant specifically for this bill. ASPS thanks our industry partners for joining ASPS in advocating for the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act at the federal level.

The BCPEA in Congress

The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act was first introduced in 2012 by Congressman Leonard Lance and Senator Roy Blunt. In May 2015, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the bill, quickly followed by a reintroduction in the House by Representatives by Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) and Kathy Castor (D-FL-14).  While 34 members of Congress cosponsored the bill in the House and the Senate during the 113th Congress, ASPS was able to build the bill's greatest bi-partisan support to date with 46 Congressional cosponsors. This type of support was made possible through the continuous advocacy of ASPS, our BCPEA Coalition partners, industry support, and most importantly, our members.

About the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act

According to the American Cancer Society, over 230,000 women will be diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer in the United States in 2015. The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires health plans that offer breast cancer coverage to also provide for breast reconstruction and prostheses. Yet less than half of all women requiring a mastectomy are currently offered breast reconstruction surgery. In fact, one in five women who do not undergo breast reconstruction reported a lack of knowledge about the procedure.

The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to plan and implement an education campaign to inform breast cancer patients about the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction and other available alternatives post-mastectomy. Educational materials created by the Secretary of Health and Human Services will inform women of their right to breast reconstruction under federal law and provide women with information about when breast reconstruction or prostheses may be appropriate within their recovery plan. This campaign will support existing collateral on breast cancer awareness that is already created by the Office of Women's Health and the Office of Minority Health.