Jaime Miller, the Vancouver mother of two who died of complications from triple-negative breast cancer at age 42 last year, is still promoting change in Clark County. Miller’s widower Andy lives in Vancouver with their son Alex and daughter Jillian.
This week, the family received promising news with a piece of legislation crafted in Miller’s honor and an endowment fund named after her.
On Monday, Senate Bill 5345 had a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. The bill could help ensure patients who receive a mastectomy on one breast can also get insurance coverage for the same procedure on their other breast, even if it is healthy at the time. The procedure is called a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy.
“It’s been nice. In this healing process, this grieving process. It’s ‘How do you keep her memory alive?'” Andy Miller said. “This is something that will go and benefit people we’ve never met. … Seeing people want to attach her name to something important and having people follow through and fight for it in her honor has been nice for our family.”
The bill calls for health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2020, to provide benefits for a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy to patients who are determined by their medical provider to be at high risk of developing breast cancer in their healthy breast, have a genetic defect that predisposes them to breast cancer or have a desire for symmetry through reconstructive surgery following the removal of one breast.
During the hearing, the committee heard from women battling breast cancer and from those who have survived it, including Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver. No one signed in to testify against the bill. Carrie Tellefson, a representative for Regence BlueShield, and other health carriers said that while they were not opposed to the bill, they had some technical issues with it.
“It’s meant to help ensure that those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are free to make medical decisions that are absolutely the best for them and their families and loved ones,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, the bill’s sponsor.
$1 million endowment
On Wednesday, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation announced the creation of a $1 million endowment fund to assist “economically vulnerable cancer patients,” according to a PeaceHealth press release. It will be named “Jaime’s fund” after Miller, and a gala will be held for the fund Oct. 19 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
The first $250,000 in gala contributions will be matched by Andy Miller and Jaime Miller’s parents, Janis and Dan Wyatt.
“It’s nice to keep her name out there, and in theory, her name will be out there forever with an endowment,” Andy Miller said.
He said the endowment is a perfect match for the causes his wife was passionate about. He remembers having conversations with Jaime Miller, where she would discuss how they were fortunate to have the money, family and friends who could help them navigate her diagnosis. Andy Miller said his wife recognized many people didn’t have the same finance or support systems.
The hope is the fund will open up avenues for people to get treatment more easily.
“The number one reason people don’t do treatment is they can’t get to treatment. To me, it’s crazy,” Andy Miller said. “We’re talking life and death, and you can’t get a car ride there.”
Reporter Jake Thomas contributed to this report.