WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation that would give metastatic breast cancer patients access to support and medical care years sooner than current law allows. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths, and the average life expectancy from diagnosis is just three years. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act would waive the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for eligible Medicare benefits.

“A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis turns people’s lives upside down. The bill I’m introducing with Senator Ernst will give many cancer patients a fighting chance. Current law forces those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to wait for Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits. This unnecessary waiting period forces patients into extreme economic hardship as they wait for the care they desperately need and deserve,” said Murphy. “The Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act shortens the waiting period for patients so they can get the care and support they need to battle cancer.”

“Cancer has impacted the lives of countless Iowans and the family members and loved ones who support them. For those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, arbitrary rules prevent them from readily accessing Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits in the time they need them most. Partnering with my colleague, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, we are pushing for a bipartisan and commonsense fix in the law to waive the waiting period for patients to access these benefits so they get the support they need as soon as possible,” said Ernst.

“There are too many women and men in this country who have to deal with how to pay for treatment and how to support their families while they are dying from metastatic breast cancer,” said Fran Visco, President of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. “The National Breast Cancer Coalition and its members from across the country who have worked hard to address this issue, are grateful that Senators Murphy and Ernst have stepped up as leaders on this bill that will make a difference for individuals who face this terrible situation.”

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Under current law, if an individual is found to be disabled for the purposes of Medicare and SSDI, the person must wait 24 months to enroll in the former and 5 months to receive the latter benefits.

The full text of the legislation is available here.