By Consumers For Quality Care, on April 21, 2021
According to ABC News, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and learning her health insurance would not cover her treatment, Tracy Post, a lieutenant firefighter in Westminster, Col., fought to change the policy.
Post, 45, was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma in November 2019, and had to undergo a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy to treat the cancer.
As she fought for her life, Post found out that breast cancer was not one of the five cancers covered by the Colorado Firefighter Heart and Cancer Benefits Trust. She appealed twice to the board of trustees for coverage, but was denied, which forced her to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Adding to Post’s frustration is that fact that breast cancer was also not recognized as a job-related cancer, leaving her with a choice between returning to work while receiving chemotherapy or going on short-term disability with reduced pay.
Across the country, less than 10% of firefighters are women. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, and much rarer for men. The five cancers covered by the trust – hematologic, brain, skin, genital urinary, and digestive – all occur more commonly in men than women.
Despite her appeals being denied, and the fact that she would not personally benefit from a change in the Trust’s coverage, Post continued to fight the rule to help other female firefighters, and spent “every waking moment” researching for her presentation to the Trust.
In August 2020, the board unanimously approved adding breast cancer to the Trust’s coverage. The provision went into effect January 1 of this year, but Colorado is one of only about a dozen states that include breast cancer in its presumptive cancer laws.
“To me, it’s 2021 and [female firefighters] are still a small percentage, but we’re still a percentage,” said Post. “I just really hope that the laws catch up to the times and that they realize and recognize that women are members of the population and that breast cancer is not just a women’s disease, that it’s a firefighters’ disease.”