Lawmakers introduce bill to increase heart screening for underserved women

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Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Representatives Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., introduced legislation this month that would expand access to screening and lifestyle counseling for low-income and uninsured women, including those who may have recently lost their jobs and health benefits.

The Heart disease Education, Research and Analysis, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act would expand eligibility for funding to all 50 states for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) WiseWoman screening program for low-income, underinsured or uninsured women. Currently, the program is available in only 20 states.

Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 455,000 women each year, or approximately one death each minute, according to the American Heart Assoication (AHA). It kills more women than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.

The legislation would educate both women and healthcare providers about the prevention and diagnosis of heart disease in women and the most effective treatments. It would also tighten FDA requirements for reporting sex- and race-based data about new medicines and devices.

"The HEART for Women Act uses a multi-pronged approach-arming medical providers with the safest and most effective cardiovascular treatments for women and giving more women access to the WiseWoman program that provides free heart disease and stroke prevention screening to low-income, uninsured women. Passage of this legislation will ensure that providers have greater access to life-saving drugs and screening services to prevent the rise of cardiovascular disease in women," Murkowski said.

The HEART for Women Act is endorsed by a number of organizations, including the AHA, the American Stroke Association, WomenHeart, the Society for Women's Health Research and the Association for Black Cardiologists.