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Bennington resident Jan Martin Bopp, left, shakes hands with Congressman Peter Welch at Jensen’s Wednesday. (Elizabeth A. Conkey)
Bennington resident Jan Martin Bopp, left, shakes hands with Congressman Peter Welch at Jensen’s Wednesday. (Elizabeth A. Conkey)
Bennington resident Jan Martin Bopp, left, shakes hands with Congressman Peter Welch at Jensen’s Wednesday. (Elizabeth A. Conkey)

BENNINGTON -- Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) held a community lunch at Jensen's restaurant Wednesday to discuss current happenings in Congress and to field questions from the townspeople of Bennington.

An audience of about 30 attended the event, including Town Manager Stuart Hurd and Bennington Select Board Member John McFadden.

Residents were given ample time to ask the Congressman questions, which ranged from education topics, to veterans' affairs, to area transportation possibilities.

Some residents, like Jan Martin Bopp, however, used Welch's visit as an opportunity to thank him for his work.

Last week, Welch announced his support for the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act (HR1801) -- an act, if brought to fruition, that would require health insurance plans that already cover oral and infused anticancer medications to also cover oral chemotherapy at the same benefit level as IV and injected chemotherapy.

Bopp, a cancer patient fighting Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer, has been rallying for support of the act as an individual, as a leader of a local Myeloma support group, and as a member of the International Myeloma Foundation Advocacy Action Team since the beginning of August, so, for him, Welch's support of the act was particularly meaningful.


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"Too many people cannot get those lifesaving drugs now because of the exorbitant costs to them," Bopp said. "If this act is passed, the lifesaving drugs that so many people need will be more accessible."

According to Bopp, the average cost of anti-cancer medications ranges from $8,000-$12,000 per month.

"I know of so many people who cannot get their life-sustaining drugs and are in the midst of financial disaster," he said. "They need the support of Congress."

Prior to the event, Bopp said his goal for the day was simple.

"I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Welch for his support of this act and on behalf of all of the people I'm representing today, the people in my support group and all those of the IMF," he said. "I find his action heartwarming."

Welch gradually made his way around to each of the residents in attendance.

When he finally arrived at Bopp's table, he was greeted with not only a handshake of thanks, but a bouquet of red flowers (the official Myeloma color) and 120 postcards signed by other constituents, showing their support of the act and urging Welch to encourage further support when Congress goes into session this January.

According to Bopp, 65 additional congressmen -- 57 Democrats and 8 Republicans -- have also sponsored the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act since it was introduced to Congress last April, but more support is needed.

When asked whether he plans to encourage fellow congressmen to support the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act, Welch said, "absolutely."

"Medications can do a lot of good but if you can't afford to buy them, they don't do a lot of good. We've got to try and make them affordable," he said. "I'll be advocating for that act among others this year."

Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at econkey@benningtonbanner.com or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.