WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is leading a bipartisan bill to boost preventive health care after the Minnesota Democrat spoke publicly last month about her breast cancer diagnosis.
While the Minnesota Democrat was successfully treated for first-stage invasive breast cancer earlier this year, her experience during the coronavirus pandemic made Thursday’s legislation a more personal undertaking. The bill has the support of two other Democrats and three Republicans, including Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota, according to Klobuchar’s office, likely helping its future prospects in the narrowly-divided Senate.
“I’m taking something that has happened to a lot of women, not just me, and putting my words into action,” Klobuchar said. “I waited too long to get a screening, but luckily I got it in time and I more than survived. My chances of getting cancer is the same as anyone else. But I want to make sure that other people get the same message and they have the same access to health care.”
The legislation would create a task force focused on recommendations to improve access to preventive care in public health emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release from Klobuchar’s office. It would also give state and local governments money to boost preventive care and decrease disparities, and call on health care leaders in federal government to develop “a coordinated, focused public health education campaign to enhance access to preventive services.”
Support from 60 senators is likely needed to clear the chamber’s filibuster threshold for most legislation, meaning the bill would need sizable bipartisan buy-in to pass. But the rollout of the legislation highlighted bipartisan agreement on the topic.
“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant decrease in routine medical visits,” GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a supporter of the bill, said in a statement. “These procedures, screenings, and immunizations are not only crucial to the wellbeing of individuals and families, but they can also help reduce Americans’ overall health care costs.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota also helped introduce the legislation, saying in a statement that his “family has seen the importance of preventive health care firsthand as my wife, Jean, has been battling cancer since 2019.”
The bill’s introduction comes during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Klobuchar was diagnosed in March, and later had a lumpectomy and a round of radiation treatment. She dealt with her medical situation in a year when she played a major role in the work of the Senate’s Democratic majority. While some of her work this year has been met with deep division in Washington, and health care legislation can be a divisive topic at times, Klobuchar pointed to shared experiences when talking about the bill.
“Everyone knows someone that’s gotten cancer and gotten better,” Klobuchar said. “Everyone knows someone that maybe didn’t catch it in time and you lost them. So I think people understand it’s a life and death matter and that early detection really matters.”
Staff writer Briana Bierschbach contributed to this story.