Equal Hope has been a longtime supporter of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP).
IBBCP is a statewide program that offers free breast and cervical cancer screens. Due to previous state budget cuts, this program has not always been accessible to the women it is supposed to serve. However, through our ongoing advocacy, we have succeeded in securing an additional $1 million in 2019 for IBCCP to continue its work. Over the pasts 5 years our efforts have increased IBCCP funding by over $16 million.
In 2019, Equal Hope proudly supported Illinois SB162, a bill intended to expand access to diagnostic mammography services. The bill, originally introduced in January by Senator Linda Holmes, was designed to expand access to diagnostic mammography. High out of pocket costs make diagnostic mammography cost prohibitive for low to moderate income people. This can delay diagnosis and also discourage future screening. SB162 ensures that diagnostic mammography services are covered by state regulated insurers just the same as ultrasound or breast MRI imaging in Illinois.
Note: Many health insurance plans are regulated at the federal level and so we can’t pass a state law to eliminate diagnostic mammography cost sharing for those plans. The bill was signed by Governor Pritzker on August 26, 2019.
At inception in 2007, Equal Hope (formerly known as the Task Force) embarked on research and community listening with respect to women’s experiences with the breast health system. This work created a robust policy agenda and passage of pioneer legislation “Breast Cancer Disparities Reduction Act (PL95-1045) in 2009. Since then, Equal Voice has developed an annual policy agenda and passed a variety of laws designed to combat structural racism though health system change (PL97-638, PL99-433).
This law amended the Illinois Public Aid Code (Medicaid statute), the Illinois Insurance Code, and other related acts. PL95-1045 as modified by PL 97-638 establishes higher screening and diagnostic mammography reimbursement in Medicaid for providers who participate in a statewide quality program. The law also requires performance bonuses for primary care providers who get their patients screened; it also requires the Department to establish a case-management or patient-navigation pilot program. These programs were established by the Quinn Administration but halted by the Rauner Administration in contravention of the law.
In August 2015, with help from our legislative champions and advocates, the BEST Act was signed into law by Governor Rauner. The BEST Act is intended to improve the chance of survival for all women in Illinois.
Poor women and publicly insured women are far more likely to have their breast cancers missed on screening mammograms compared to other women because of poorer quality mammography. They are also more likely to experience fragmented less comprehensive care. The BEST Act requires all Medicaid health plans to include American College of Radiology Breast Centers of Imaging Excellence and Academic Commission on Cancer Accredited centers in their networks, so that women can access the highest quality care. The law requires HFS to establish a breast cancer treatment quality program and it also expands help to women diagnosed with breast cancer with navigating our often complex healthcare system and ensures that women can get the right kind of breast cancer screening including an MRI for higher risk women. Most of this bill was ignored by the Rauner Administration and is still waiting full implementation.
Equal Hope is excited to launch its newest initiatives around a cancer that is almost 100 percent preventable. With vigorous HPV vaccination and high-quality screening, no woman should get cervical cancer. In fact, Australia is close to eliminating the disease entirely and Rwanda has 94% of their adolescents fully immunized against HPV the virus that causes cervical cancer.
The next phase of our policy and advocacy work will focus on education around vaccination and screening and continued support for programs like IBCCP. We will also push to ensure that the HPV vaccine is covered by health plans, especially state funded health plans such as Medicaid and State employees healthcare up to the age recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration – age 45.