National Breast Cancer Coalition

For Immediate Release:

Disease and Disability Groups Ask Courts to Protect Our Patients, Keep Health Law Intact

NBCC Joins in Filing Amicus Brief in Virginia

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2010—Today, leading disease and disabilities advocacy groups sent a formal statement to the courts:  protect Americans from frivolous lawsuits that undermine the new health law’s protections from insurance company abuses. For too long, insurance companies have had the power to exclude coverage based on pre-existing conditions. As a result, people affected with diseases and disabilities have had a difficult time finding quality, affordable coverage in the individual market. There is a broad, bipartisan consensus to curb these practices, and with the enactment of the Affordable Coverage Act (ACA), they will end.

An essential provision of ACA is the minimum coverage provision that makes it everyone's personal responsibility to purchase health coverage for themselves. Without it, the insurance reforms everyone agrees we need would be unaffordable. Ensuring that every American has health coverage spreads the risk more broadly and helps lower costs. State after state that have enacted these insurance reforms without a minimum coverage provision have seen premiums skyrocket.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is challenging this provision. If successful, it would destabilize the market, raise premiums for those who need health coverage the most and price the sickest out of the market.  For the health law to ensure a stable, affordable insurance pool that covers nearly everyone—and protects those with illnesses and disabilities—insurance reforms must be coupled with an individual responsibility provision to obtain coverage.

The March of Dimes Foundation, The American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, Breast Cancer Action, Families USA, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Friends of Cancer Research, Mental Health America, National Breast Cancer Coalition, National Organization for Rare Disorders, National Patient Advocate Foundation, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Women's Law Center, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need and United Cerebral Palsy have all signed on to the brief, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia today.

"Comprehensive, affordable health coverage is important for everyone—most especially women who are pregnant, as well as infants and children," said Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D, president of the March of Dimes. "And for the more than 120,000 babies born with birth defects and the half million who are born prematurely every year—often facing complications that can last a lifetime—health insurance that covers their medical needs is absolutely essential."

"It’s no secret that insurance companies have routinely denied health coverage to millions of women and their families because of so-called 'pre-existing conditions.' Just having had a Caesarian section or been the victim of domestic violence is reason enough for some companies to reject applications for coverage from women in excellent health. Comprehensive health reform is the only way to get rid of these abuses and an individual mandate is an essential part of that reform. Without it, Americans will continue to be denied comprehensive and affordable health care that they sorely need and deserve," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will finally open the doors to health insurance coverage for many of our constituents.  Many of our family members have had vital health coverage denied to them due to their child’s pre-existing disability. It is disconcerting that litigation to remove this critical protection is already being pursued," said Peter Berns, the CEO of The Arc of the U.S., the nation’s largest organization serving millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

According to Barbara A. Brenner, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, "Having a life threatening illness like breast cancer is bad enough. Changing any essential element of the health care program will make that situation even worse. The result will almost certainly be an increase in the number of people dying of breast cancer."

"By supporting this brief we want to make certain the progress that has been made for patients and their families is not hindered," said Dr. Ellen Sigal, Chair, Friends of Cancer Research. "We continue to be committed to helping those battling terrible diseases like cancer get access to the care they so desperately need."

"As an advocate for the one in 10 Americans with rare diseases who have been unfairly burdened by insurance practices that discriminate against those unfortunate enough to have pre-existing medical conditions, we are extremely concerned about any policy or legal action that puts at risk what we’ve worked so hard to secure," said Peter L. Saltonstall, President and CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).

"The federal health reform law puts America’s, and Virginia’s, women and families one huge step closer to getting the health coverage and health care they need," said National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness. "The Affordable Care Act will help every woman who has been overcharged by insurers because of her gender, every person who has been denied coverage because of illness or age, and every person who can’t afford coverage or prenatal or preventive care. Virginia’s politically motivated lawsuit must not be allowed to derail this law, which women, families, older people with multiple health problems—and the nation—urgently need."

"For women battling breast cancer, the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides access to potentially life-saving treatment, protection of coverage in case of job loss, and coverage eligibility despite pre-existing conditions. We can’t afford to undo this incredible progress toward NBCC’s #1 priority for over a decade—access to quality health care for all," Fran Visco, President of National Breast Cancer Coalition.

"The health reform law is the most significant legislative achievement for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, the largest membership organization in the US representing people with all types of disabilities. "We have waited a long time for these critical reforms, and we will fight to see the law implemented without inappropriate interference from opponents of reform," Imparato continued.

About NBCC

The National Breast Cancer Coalition is a grassroots membership organization dedicated to ending breast cancer through the power of action and advocacy. Along with the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, its research and education arm, NBCC’s main goals are to promote research into the cause of, and optimal preventive and treatment interventions for, breast cancer through increased federal funding, fostering of innovation and collaborative approaches, and improved accountability; to improve access to quality breast cancer care for all women, from screening through diagnosis, treatment and care, particularly for the underserved and uninsured, through legislation and change in systems of delivery of health care; and to educate and empower women and men as advocates, increasing the involvement and influence of those living with breast cancer and other breast cancer activists wherever and whenever breast cancer decisions are made. For more information, visit www.StopBreastCancer.org.

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