Insurance companies required to cover costs of some tests for breast cancer under new Pa. bill
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro signed a bill Monday afternoon requiring insurers to cover the cost of genetic testing and supplemental screenings for women with a high chance of breast cancer.
Genetic testing, early screenings and MRIs can help catch cancer early and allow for quicker treatment. Supporters hope the bill will help remove some of the barriers to care and help people who otherwise might not be able to afford the tests and screenings required to catch breast cancer in its early stages.
The bill unanimously passed both the state House and Senate.
Republican state Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward sponsored the legislation. Ward was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and underwent surgery in 2021. She said the bill was partly inspired by her own experiences.
“When you go through something like breast cancer — or any kind of cancer — you're just living your life and then you get punched in the gut. And I think, ‘Geez, what can we do to help other people? What can we do?’” she told those in attendance at the signing.
Democratic state House Speaker Joanna McClinton noted that women of color, particularly Black women, have higher breast cancer mortality rates than their white counterparts.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, age-adjusted breast-cancer mortality for Black women in the United States is about 40% higher than rates among non-Hispanic white women. This is despite the fact that Black women experience breast cancer at lower rates.
Pennsylvania is “taking all the steps in the right direction,” McClinton said.
“When your insurance company told you ‘No,’ previously, when they said, ‘Oh, you've got to go find the co-pay.’ ‘Oh, well, we would do genetic testing, but we don't cover that. We've got a strong message right here from the General Assembly in Pennsylvania. The ‘No’ is turning into a ‘Yes,’ and we know what that's going to mean. It's going to mean lives saved and early detection.”
The bill was the first Shapiro signed as governor. He said eliminating the cost for testing and screening will give more women better access to health care.
“No one should avoid getting these potentially lifesaving treatments because they can't afford it,” Shapiro said.
He also praised the bipartisan effort that went into passing the bill.
“This is an example of the kind of work we all need to keep doing together -- bipartisan, meaningful work,” he said. “We have a lot more work to do, and this spirit of goodwill and compromise needs to continue.”