Monday, June 27, 2016

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee, Billy Joel - Breast Cancer Motorcycle Ride Kick-Off

As part of the "Get Screened, No Excuses" campaign, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to increase access to breast cancer screenings and build on the series of breast cancer initiatives outlined in the 2016 State of the State address. Governor Cuomo signed the legislation at Citi Field during New York State’s first-ever breast cancer motorcycle ride. Hundreds of participants, including Sandra Lee and Billy Joel, joined the Governor on the ride to raise awareness of the disease across New York State.

Text “GET SCREENED” to 81336 to find a breast cancer screening location near you.

The comprehensive legislative package is the nation's most aggressive breast cancer screening action plan, ensuring that woman across the state have access to the health care and services they need and deserve. The new law will require extended hours for screening at 210 hospital-based mammography facilities across the state and eliminate insurance hurdles for mammograms and other screening and diagnostic imaging procedures to detect breast cancer.

Sandra Lee: Thank you and thank you all for coming. You know, I have to tell you that living through breast cancer has been one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do in my life. However, it is not nearly as difficult – when you’re diagnosed early, that’s the easy part. And I can tell you how hard it’s been on me – an incredibly difficult year. But the women who don’t get diagnosed early, those are the women who really suffer. And there’s a reason why I had to go through what I went through, by setting the example and allowing people an inside view and my sweetheart and inside view of what it takes to get through it. And those kinds of examples are what it takes to change the laws and to make it accessible for all women to get screened. No cost, easy access – that’s what it’s about.

And I’m so grateful that I have my partner Andrew -- as you know, the Governor – who could make a difference and did make a difference. So I want to thank him and I want thank you all for coming out. And I want to share with the women listening and watching who will view this and read it in print: there is no excuse for you not to get tested. It does not cost anything. We have mobile units on the ground – ten of them. The clinics are left open on weekends and on evenings. Without you here, who is going to take care of your family? Who is going to be your girlfriend’s girlfriend? You need to get tested and screened, you need to stay here so you can enjoy these beautiful days on our beautiful beaches in our beautiful state. And with that, I would like for you to please let me welcome, my sweetheart, Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Well, it is really a pleasure to be here. How beautiful is Sunken Meadow? Really is special. To our County Executives, Nassau, Suffolk – I'm not going to get into the Nassau/Suffolk debate, it is always ferocious. I love Long Island, all of it. Let's give Ed Mangano and Steve Bellone a big round of applause and thank them for their leadership.

To my friend Bill Joel who is such a great New Yorker. Everybody knows it, everybody feels it and that's part of why he is who he is. He is authentic, he is genuine, he loves his music, but he loves his state and he loves his community even more and whenever we need him to help us in any way, like today, he's there. Billy Joel. Billy also brings his own specials fans with him where ever he goes.

And Sandra Lee. You know, you think you know someone, we’ve been together many, many years and this year was one of the hardest that I've ever gone through personally, going through Sandy's situation, we had just lost my father. And you think you know a person. She has a strength and a resilience in her core that was unbelievable. Because to get through this breast cancer surgery, that’s exactly what you need. It really questions one to their core and she taught me a lot personally and I learned a lot about the issue. And if there is a silver lining to the situation that we went through, it's that we are going to make the situation better for millions of New Yorkers.

Like most cancers, but especially breast cancer, the best prevention is detection. You don't get detected unless you get screened. You need to get screened. And over the past year, we've been in hospitals talking to doctors, talking to patients. "Why haven't you gotten screened?" And basically, we made a list of the reasons why people didn't get screened and then we resolved those issues.

The first one was, "I can't afford it, it's too much money." This state, we’re going to sign a law, in a little bit this morning that eliminates any payment by the patient for a screening test. No co-pay, no deductible, no cost, whatsoever. Second reason people said, “I can’t find the time. I work 9-5, the hospitals closed, the clinics closed.” The law is going to says the hospital has to stay open another four hours every week after five o’clock and on weekends so that people will be able to find the screening accessible. The third was, “it’s too complicated, I can’t figure it out.” We have a full website and a personal navigator service where you can call an actual person on the telephone who will walk you through how to do it, where to go, how to get coverage if you don’t have it.

The fourth reason was, “I’m afraid.” They wouldn’t say it that way, but "I’m afraid. I don’t want to know. I want to avoid it." And that's what today is all about. There's no excuse not to get screened. It's not going to cost you anything. The hospital will be open the hours that you're ready. There will be someone to walk you through it. But, the first step is up to you and you have to take the first step. You have to go for the screening and there is no excuse not to.

We've gotten a lot done in this state over the past few years – we're building things, we're passing great laws. This law is going to save lives. It will literally save lives and I can't tell you how excited I am. Now we just have to get people out to take that first step to get screened and that's what today is all about and the only way we're going to do it is by getting on those motorcycles and riding all across this state. So let’s ride. Thank you and God bless you.

As part of a $91 million plan announced in January [continues after the jump]

Governor Cuomo today also launched a series of new initiatives to combat breast cancer and raise awareness about the importance of getting screened. The new initiatives include mobile mammography vans, patient navigators, a public awareness campaign, community-based peer education programs, and investments through the state-backed venture capital fund to support promising cancer-related technologies. The Governor also announced the launch of a new “Text Line” to help women find mammogram locations. New Yorkers can text “Get Screened” to 81336 and after submitting their zip code; they will receive information about screening locations with extended hours near their home.

“Breast cancer affects women of all walks of life, and in New York, we have put forward the most aggressive plan in the nation to increase awareness about this disease and expand access to live-saving resources and services,” Governor Cuomo said. “Sandy fortunately caught this disease early and with today’s legislation, we are taking action to ensure that every woman, regardless of her schedule or financial situation, has access to the best cancer treatment possible – early detection. This legislation is an example of our unrelenting commitment to protecting our mothers, sisters and daughters in the fight against this disease and I thank my partners in the Legislature for passing this bill. By hitting the road today, we are helping all of those who face a road ahead in their fight against preventing and curing this disease and we will continue to our efforts to build a stronger and healthier New York.”

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said: "I am pleased that today the Governor signed a new law that reaffirms the state's commitment to giving women the tools they need in the fight against breast cancer. This comprehensive law will provide increased education, remove barriers to screening, eliminate co-pays and deductibles, expand insurance coverage and increase access for all New York women. We all recognize that early detection continues to be the best way to survive breast cancer and go on to lead a long and healthy life. That's why it's critical that we do everything possible to encourage New Yorkers and their families to get the screenings they need and deserve. I thank the Governor for shining a light on this issue and our colleagues on both side of the aisle for their dedication to these lifesaving initiatives."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “It is critical that we raise awareness and educate New Yorkers about a disease that continues to affect the lives of women and their families all across the state. The legislation that will become law today will ensure that women everywhere have access to the resources they need to promote early detection and diagnosis. By expanding hours at screening centers, introducing mobile mammography options and reducing unnecessary insurance barriers, women will have more opportunities to get the potentially lifesaving screening they need, especially for those living in underserved communities. The Assembly Majority remains committed to promoting and encouraging healthier lives for women because we know doing so will have a long lasting positive impact on families.”

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein said: "Breast cancer screenings will save lives. This law eliminates the hurdles that women in our lives face to accessing the health care they need. Our moms, sisters, friends should never have to put burdensome co-pays over early detection. I thank Governor Cuomo for making this a priority and signing this important legislation into law today.”

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said: “Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women and early detection and treatment save lives. I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking these steps. The Senate Democrats have helped lead the fight to ensure our state provides services and support to New Yorkers struggling with breast cancer and we are glad to work with the Governor to combat this disease.”

Sandra Lee said: "As I rode with Andrew in the moments before he signed the No Excuses Bill, I felt grateful for receiving what was the worst news of my life at the time – a breast cancer diagnosis. I was so blessed to get tested at an early stage. Now, all women in New York State have that same opportunity. This bill brings extra hours added for women to get screened early in the morning and later in the evening -- before and after regular working hours -- and testing will be free, with no co-pay. Every woman in our nation should have this hope for health. I urge governors in ALL states to take the action that Andrew did ‎and make it happen for the women in all states -- that's my prayer today."


Screening for breast cancer can increase the detection of the disease at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. With this new law, New York State is removing the barriers that often prevent women from getting screened. As part of the Governor's "Get Screened, No Excuses" campaign, the new law will:
  • Require 210 hospitals and hospital extension clinics to offer extended hours of screening for at least four hours per week to help women who have difficulty scheduling mammograms during the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. These hours include 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or Sunday;
  • Eliminate annual deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance payments (“cost-sharing”) for all screening mammograms, including those provided to women more frequently than current federal screening guidelines such as annual mammograms for women in their forties;
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for diagnostic imaging for breast cancer, including diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and breast MRIs for women at high risk for breast cancer. As a result, women in need of tests other than standard mammograms will not have to pay any additional out-of-pocket expenses for these most common diagnostic tests;
  • Add public employees of cities with a population of one million or more, to the population of public employees in New York State who are currently allowed four hours of leave for screening for breast cancer each year. Current state law requires all public employers to provide their employees with four hours of leave each year for breast cancer screening. Now public employees in New York City will receive the same benefit as all other public employees statewide.

To build on the new legislative agreement, the "Get Screened, No Excuses" campaign includes a series of initiatives the Governor outlined earlier this year to promote awareness about the benefits of early detection and enhance access to these life-saving screenings. The $91 million campaign includes:
  • 10 mobile mammography vans that will be dispatched to every region across the state, so mammograms can be provided in communities;
  • Patient navigators, who will be available in every region to help women secure access to screenings and obtain the necessary treatment in the event they do have breast cancer;
  • A public awareness campaign focused on low-income, underserved communities to promote awareness of the importance of mammograms;
  • Community-based peer education programs that will enlist trusted and trained educators to discuss the importance of mammograms and early detection of breast cancer with women;
  • $5 million from the New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund to support promising cancer-related technologies that help increase breast cancer screening and improve the diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer.

NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Early detection is the key to improving health outcomes and savings lives. Governor Cuomo's initiatives will have a tremendous positive impact on the lives and health of so many New Yorkers."

“This groundbreaking legislation will save women’s lives”, said Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo. “Early detection of breast cancer is critical to treating the disease and this new legislation eliminates the financial barriers to provide necessary breast cancer screening and diagnostic imaging for women. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his dedication to this important issue and for bringing about this progressive legislation, which will help improve women’s access to breast cancer screenings and protect families throughout New York State.”

The NYS Department Financial Services will issue a circular letter to set forth insurers’ legal obligations to cover breast cancer screening and treatment. The circular letter reminds insurers that cost sharing for mammography screenings, diagnostic imaging, genetic screening and medication is prohibited. ​ The letter also provides guidance on the Department’s view that insurers must cover certain medically necessary treatments, such as prophylactic mastectomies and reconstruction surgery and prostheses when the BRCA 1 or 2 gene is discovered or for those who have a strong family history of breast cancer. This will help prevent insurance companies from charging women additional out-of-pocket expenses for common screenings and diagnostic tests, and ensure that women are covered for all medically necessary services.​

The Governor signed the legislation and made these announcements today during New York’s first-ever breast cancer motorcycle ride. As part of the ride, Harley Davidson is donating a custom motorcycle that will be used by Governor Cuomo throughout the ride and then auctioned off by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to raise money to prevent and cure the disease.

"We applaud Gov. Cuomo's groundbreaking efforts to eliminate barriers to breast cancer screening and are humbled to be part of this campaign," said Tonit Calaway, President of The Harley-Davidson Foundation and Vice President of Human Resources for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. "Let's hope New York's legislation starts a nationwide movement to raise awareness and save more women's lives."

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus said: "On behalf of the 58 women members of the Legislative Women's Caucus, I'd like to thank the Governor for highlighting the importance of breast cancer screening and early detection. The "Get Screened, No Excuses" campaign recognizes the challenges many women face trying access services. The motorcycle ride will increase awareness across the state, spreading hope along the way."

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said: “Screening for breast cancer early can make a lifetime of difference for women and today New York is giving all women the opportunity to get ahead of this disease and catch it early. New York is leading the way in making these lifesaving services more accessible to all women and I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this important piece of legislation today.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said: "When it comes to early detection for breast cancer, getting annual screenings is critical and can't be delayed or ignored. New York State is helping all women gain access to the essential resources they need and deserve to live strong and healthy lives. With today's ride we are spreading awareness and sending the message on the importance of getting screened and I am proud to join Governor Cuomo in taking a stand against this disease."

New York State employees currently receive four hours of annual leave for breast cancer screening. The State is asking all private sector employers to grant the same type of benefit to their employees and provide four hours annual leave for breast cancer screening. Thirty-five companies are actively engaged in the state’s effort to offer four hours annual leave to employees for breast cancer screening. Any employers wishing to join the State in this effort should submit their contact information here.

For more information on breast cancer screenings and support, call the New York State breast cancer hotline at 1-866-442-CANCER (2262). The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can assist non-English speaking callers. Visit for more information on New York State’s breast cancer screening programs.

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