November 23, 2020
WASHINGTON - In an interview that aired today on CBS This Morning, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) discussed the bipartisan Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act, legislation he introduced with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) to make breast cancer diagnostic tests more accessible and affordable. The bill would address the disparity between breast cancer screenings, which are fully covered, and diagnostic tests, which can leave patients with thousands of dollars in unexpected costs.
Background on the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act:
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created additional obstacles to routine care for millions of Americans. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that diagnoses for six types of cancer dropped in March and April. The largest decrease occurred in the weekly number of breast cancer diagnoses, which were down nearly 52%. With experts warning that 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 as more people catch up on postponed care.