BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After successfully battling breast cancer, one Louisiana lawmaker wants to make the fight a little easier for other Louisianians.
Last year, Rep. Julie Stokes' life took an unexpected turn. What she originally thought was a cyst, she would soon discover was something far worse. "I was so cavalier about it, because I just had a clean mammogram, that I didn't even bother going to the doctor," the Kenner Republican said.
Stokes said she believes if she had gotten a more advanced, 3-D mammogram, she could have known about the cancer sooner, thereby making treatment easier. "I might have averted that whole thing and caught it before it spread to lymph nodes and before it upended my life in some major ways," she said.
Her bill, which a committee approved unanimously Wednesday, would give other Louisianians that opportunity. It requires insurance providers in Louisiana to cover those specialized screenings. She's also pushing for two other bills dealing with cancer. One requires insurers to cover screenings after cancer treatment, so people know if the cancer moves or comes back.
Kim Sport has had cancer three times. Her third round was discovered during one of those follow-up screenings. She said she unsuccessfully appealed to have her insurer help with the cost. "It should be the doctor's decision about whether it's a covered medical examination and not the insurance company's decision," Sport said.
Cancer treatments can also cause infertility. Stokes' third bill requires coverage to preserve sperm and eggs, thereby giving cancer patients a chance to have a child later. "This is something… I feel men and women should not have to worry about while fighting for their lives," said Rebekah Gee, secretary of the La. Department of Health, who appeared in committee to support the bill.
The bill is facing push back, with some worried about the cost associated with the procedure. Because it is a "new mandate" under the Affordable Care Act, the state would have to help foot the cost. Catholic Church officials, meanwhile, raised moral concerns. "For us, an embryo is a life, and so the freezing of that life is incomparable with our moral teachings," said Rob Tasman with the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.
All three bills advanced out of committee.