April 13, 2021
U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) announced that they have introduced the bipartisan Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act. The legislation would make breast cancer diagnostic tests more accessible and affordable.
“Early breast cancer detection saves lives,” said Blunt. “Unfortunately, many Americans had to postpone preventive care – including breast cancer screenings – because of the pandemic. With experts warning there could be a spike in demand for care for health conditions that went undiagnosed or untreated during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to address the disparity in cost coverage for diagnostic screenings. Eliminating barriers that prevent patients from getting their diagnosis confirmed will allow them to start treatment as soon as possible, leading to lower treatment costs and, most importantly, better outcomes.”
“Detecting and treating breast cancer as quickly as possible saves lives. No one should ever forgo screening because of cost,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation to require health insurance to cover diagnostic breast cancer testing as they do other preventative screenings. I’ll keep working in the Senate to make sure lifesaving health care is affordable and accessible for Granite State families.”
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 current disparity between screening and diagnostic coverage can result in patients 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.
A study published last August in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that diagnoses for six types of cancer dropped in March and April of 2020. The largest decrease occurred in the weekly number of breast cancer diagnoses, which were down nearly 52%.