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Effort underway to help diagnose breast cancer

May 01, 2020

U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, filed legislation to create the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act.

The purpose is to make breast cancer diagnostic tests more accessible and affordable.

“Early breast cancer detection saves lives,” Blunt said. “Screening is vital, but getting the diagnosis confirmed so patients can start treatment as soon as possible is just as important. By ensuring full coverage of cancer diagnostic tests, this bill eliminates a major hurdle to care, leading to lower treatment costs and better outcomes.”

A lack of money should not stand in the way of preventive health care, Shaheen said.

“No one should ever feel pressured to forgo a necessary cancer screening because they can’t afford it,” she said. “This bipartisan legislation would require breast cancer diagnostic tests to be covered by health insurance in the same way that preventative screenings are covered, helping to ensure that these lifesaving tests are not out of reach for those who need them. Lowering health care costs and increasing access to critical services must be top priorities in Congress, and this bill helps make important progress on that effort.”

Under current law, insurance companies are required to provide no-cost coverage for breast cancer screenings, but not diagnostic testing. If the initial screening shows that a patient may have breast cancer, further testing – including mammograms, MRIs and ultrasounds – may be needed to make a diagnosis.

Regular diagnostic testing may also be recommended for patients who have had a prior breast cancer diagnosis. An estimated 10% of screening mammograms require follow-up diagnostic testing.

The disparity between screening and diagnostic coverage can result in patients later contracting advanced cancers and having to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs, creating a significant barrier to care. The unexpected costs can increase the likelihood that people with the disease will avoid or delay treatment, allowing the cancer to progress and reducing the survival rate.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, Peter King, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Brian Fitzpatrick, Colin Allred and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Legislation must pass the Senate and House to have a chance of being signed into law by the president.

The bill is supported by Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer foundation.

‘No one should ever feel pressured to forego a necessary cancer screening because they can’t afford it.’

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