In April 2021, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, legislation that would waive the five-month waiting period for social security disability insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for eligible Medicare benefits.

The bill would give patients with metastatic breast cancer access to support and medical care earlier than currently allowed by law. Previously, patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer automatically qualified for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration as long as they applied and met technical qualifications rules. Patients younger than 65 with disabilities other than end-stage renal disease or amyotropic lateral sclerosis must have received SSDI for 24 months before becoming eligible for Medicare.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common cancer in American women after skin cancer. Patients diagnosed with breast cancer often feel confused and frightened, and Senators Murphy and Ernst said that the added weight of worrying about access to care and Medicare and SSDI qualifications is unnecessary. With the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, SSDI and Medicare eligibility would be waived by two years.

“A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis turns people’s lives upside down. The bill I’m introducing with Senator Ernst will give many patients with cancer a fighting chance,” Murphy said.

“For those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, arbitrary rules prevent them for readily accessing SSDI and Medicare benefits in the time they need them most,” Ernst said. “We are pushing for a bipartisan and common-sense fix in the law to waive the waiting period for patients to access these benefits so they can get the support they need as soon as possible.”

According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, 90% of breast cancer deaths are a result of metastatic disease. ONS provides members with courses on how to care for patients with breast cancer, which cover topics of prevention, survivorship and quality of life, and treatment and symptom management.