Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mastectomy Patients Face New Obstacles Insurors Balk at Paying for Reconstructive Surgery

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mastectomy Patients Face New Obstacles Insurors Balk at Paying for Reconstructive Surgery

Article excerpt

Last fall, shortly after election day, a woman waved to me in the grocery store. She was young and attractive and looked familiar. I assumed I had met her during my campaign. Something was odd, though. It was the baseball cap yanked down on her head, way down, nearly covering her ears.

A week later my suspicions were confirmed. That pretty young face appeared in the pages of the Sunday Post-Dispatch. The cap covered her bald head, chemically shorn of its locks by massive doses of drugs.

Susan Signaigo Weich, 36, chronicled her physical and emotional pain related to her breast cancer and that of her family. We learned about the horrors of her aggressive cancer, a mastectomy and release from the hospital in 23 hours, her chemotherapy and then radiation. She's now moving on, and part of that moving on includes reconstruction of her breast. Weich is petitioning her medical insurer to cover the costs of breast reconstruction and related surgery. Many insurance companies - which have brought us drive-through labor and delivery and drive-through mastectomies - are now saying that breast reconstruction is "cosmetic" and should not be covered. Rep. Sue Shear, a Democrat from Clayton, recently introduced House Bill 129, which would "require insurers and similar entities to cover prosthetic devices and reconstructive surgery necessary to achieve symmetry, if the insured has had a mastectomy that was covered by the insurer." The American Cancer Society, Missouri State Medical Association and other physician and medical organizations have testified for the bill. According to the Cancer Society, 3,400 women in Missouri suffer from breast cancer. Nationally, 160,000 new cases will be diagnosed by this year, and more than 40,000 women will die from the disease. In a very short period of time following diagnosis, a woman struggles with the choices of life or death or mutilation and often chooses mastectomy - the surgical removal of one or both breasts. …

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