Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A happy phone call

So I was at a restaurant last night with my family after an appointment at NYU when a call came to my cell from an 845 area code. I normally would not answer a call during dinner but it was an upstate area code so I suspected it was big news about the bill. To my surprise as I stepped out onto the street to take the call,it was Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee herself calling to tell me that the bill passed!  What an honor Ellen Jaffee is the bill's assembly sponsor and I had the pleasure of meeting her when I went to Albany in early May for the press conference/lobby day. I was inspired by her passion for justice then and now. It was a joy to meet everyone who works in her office (including Ms. Jaffee's husband, Michael Virga, and Belinda the intern.)  Theresa Tolokonsky, her ├╝ber-competent legislative aide, was tireless and instrumental in getting this passed. Without the energy of this fearless team, the bill never would have left committee. (A similar bill died in committee last year. How long would this have languished without this concerted attention?) Big thanks also to State Senator John Flanagan and his staff for working hard on this bill.

However, no one would argue that anyone worked harder on this legislation than JoAnn Pushkin, the survivor who is the driving force behind this NY bill. (Props also to Nancy Cappello at Are You Dense and Julie Marron at the Institute for Health Quality and Ethics.)

So now it is goes to Governor Cuomo's desk for a signature. Seems like a no-brainer, right? It may seem unlikely that he could veto a bipartisan, unanimously passed bill to aid early detection for breast cancer, but Cuomo has already received intense lobbying and pressure from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to veto the bill. They will continue to pressure him. We have a letter of support from the New York State Society of Radiological Society but in the past the American Colleg of Radiology (ACR--officially neutral on this bill) has always lobbied hard against density notification legislation in other states and federally. I suspect they're leaving the lobbying to ACOG because ACOG seems more like a disinterested 3rd party (which they are certainly not). My feel is that they have been tag-teaming with ACOG on this bill.

Last year a similar bill came to California Governor Jerry Brown's desk. He did not consult survivors and advocates such as myself as he weighed his decision. Instead, he consulted the California Medical Association, who told him “The problem with this bill is that it gives a boatload of power to a lot of women who then become powerless to use that information” for insurance reasons. I blogged about the absurdity of that argument here. But Governor Brown vetoed the bill on the grounds that information about supplementary screening and subsequent diagnostic tests would cause women "unnecessary anxiety."

I don't know if a New York governor could get away with telling New York women they can't manage anxiety. But I'm leaving nothing to chance.

In our favor, we have letters of support from the Medical Society of the State of New York, the New York State Nurses Association, and the aforesaid Radiological Society letter.

Governor Cuomo needs to know New Yorkers care about this lifesaving legislation. Please fill out this contact form, copying and pasting the following long subject line (important):

"SUPPORT: A9586D/S6769B Relates to duties of mammography services to notify and inform patients if a mammogram demonstrates dense breast tissue."

Choose health care as the topic on the pulldown menu.

Thank you everyone who has been following and supporting this legislation. (This single-issue, single-state, single-bill blog has received 1,340 page views in less than two weeks of existence!)

One more stop to turn this bill into law!

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