Heeding Bipartisan Calls Spearheaded by Shaheen, DOD Agrees to Expand Coverage of Lifesaving Breast Cancer Screenings

December 06, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Heeding bipartisan calls in Congress led by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Martha McSally (R-AZ), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Department of Defense (DoD) agreed to expand TRICARE coverage for improved breast cancer screening options for female service members and veterans starting next month. 

In September, the Senators led a bipartisan letter to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery, requesting that DoD expand TRICARE’s coverage to include Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, also known as DBT or 3D mammography. In his response to Shaheen, Assistant Secretary McCaffery confirmed that TRICARE would add coverage for 3D mammography. This change will become effective on January 1, 2020, ensuring that women who have served or currently serve in the armed forces have access to the newest medical and technological advancements that have the best possible chance of detecting breast cancer early. Before DoD’s confirmation, TRICARE was the only national payer to not offer preventative screening with 3D mammography, creating a lower standard of care for women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

In addition to her letter sent to DoD, Shaheen recently introduced bipartisan legislation with McSally, the Better and Robust Screening Today Act, to require DoD to cover 3D mammograms as an option for preventive breast cancer screening. Shaheen has consistently fought to improve health care for service members and expand access to lifesaving screenings. In June, she introduced a bipartisan bill, the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act of 2019, to increase access to breast cancer screenings for women. Specifically, the bill would postpone recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that would limit access to breast cancer screenings for women in their 40s. It would continue the moratorium on the USPSTF recommendations, which Congress has extended several times. 

“Our female service members and veterans deserve access to the latest and most effective cancer screening options, full stop,” said Shaheen. “Our servicewomen should never be subjected to a lower standard of care than those they’re sworn to protect, so I’m very relieved the Department of Defense heeded our bipartisan call to ensure TRICARE expands coverage to include these lifesaving breast cancer screenings. I’ll continue to fight on behalf of our servicewomen and their families to ensure they receive the best care possible to put their personal health and well-being first.” 

The Senators’ original request can be read here, and the letter from DOD can be read here.