COLUMBUS, Ohio — Susan G. Komen is the number one funder of breast cancer research outside the US government. Many people may think that is where most or all of the money they donate to the organization goes to.
However, advocates working for Komen all agree their approach to beating breast cancer is holistic, looking at all sides of the battle.
Their fight against the disease often takes them to lawmakers directly, because as many who have gotten a diagnosis know, treatment can get expensive.
Breast cancer treatments have evolved.
Instead of going to the doctor for an IV infusion every so often, a lot of patients can just take a pill instead.
Molly Guthrie, the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G Komen is great news for people who don’t have to travel to an infusion center, but also comes with bad news because it’s handled differently when it comes to health insurance.”
Guthrie said breast cancer patients who get IV infusions usually only have to pay an office visit co pay. That is usually a bill of about 20 to 50 dollars a visit.
When those patients take a pills for treatment, insurance companies cover that as a pharmaceutical benefit, hurting a their wallets a lot more.
“You have a lot of players that are all trying to make sure they recover their costs,” Guthrie said.
“So you have the people that are developing the drug, the pharmaceutical companies, but you also have health insurance who also want to make sure they’re not having to pay more than what they consider their fair share.”
Komen has a helpline patients can call if they are struggling with paying for treatment.
Through that helpline, Komen can connect people to other financial services or their own treatment assistant fund for immediate needs.
The organization is also fighting for policy change on a state and federal level in their mission to ultimately make helpline calls for cost of breast cancer treatment a thing of the past.
“What are we doing as a country if we’re investing money to get these great treatment advances and then the people that need them can’t access them.,” Guthrie said.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Komen has made some long strides in this fight by advocating for legislation to make IV and oral drugs cost the same in several states, including Ohio.
However, there are still middlemen: the drug companies themselves and insurance companies putting a burden on patients.
That fight is still happening.
“This is a real impact that happens to people in Columbus, in Ohio, across the country every day,” Guthrie said.”
“Without using our voices and without calling our lawmakers to make changes, it’s never going to get better.”
Guthrie said people can sign up for Komen’s online newsletter to get alerted when certain legislation is on the docket to call lawmakers themselves.