Shaheen, Blunt Introduce Bipartisan Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act

January 17, 2020

(Washington, DC)– Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced bipartisan legislation, the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act, to make breast cancer diagnostic tests more accessible and affordable. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Peter King (NY-02), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Colin Allred (TX-32), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05).

“No one should ever feel pressured to forgo a necessary cancer screening because they can’t afford it,” said Shaheen. “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.”

“Early breast cancer detection saves lives,” said Blunt. “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.”

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. 

Senator Shaheen has led a number of measures in the Senate to improve access to breast cancer screenings. Last month, in response to a bipartisan call from Senators Shaheen and McSally (R-AZ) and following introduction of their bipartisan legislation to address the issue, the Department of Defense agreed to expand TRICARE coverage to include 3D mammography – the most effective breast cancer screening option. 

The Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act is supported by Susan G. Komen®.