On Monday, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bipartisan-backed bill that would remove the financial barrier for women at high lifetime risk for breast cancer from obtaining supplemental screenings and require insurance companies to cover their genetic counseling and testing. Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, sponsored the bill, which passed with a 50-0 vote followed by strong round of applause in the chamber. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bill removes out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing and counseling
The bill removes the out-of-pocket costs associated with genetic testing and genetic counseling for people at high risk of certain gene mutations, which predisposes them to breast cancer. It further provides for those at high risk of a breast cancer diagnosis to get an MRI and/or ultrasound at no cost, no copay, no deductible or no coinsurance. The high-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, personal history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition, and prior radiation therapy.
Genetic counseling provides information for better cancer risk management
Genetic counseling explores a person’s family health history and determines if a pattern of certain cancers reaches a threshold to warrant testing. Testing is done by collecting a blood or saliva sample that is analyzed for genes showing susceptibility to certain types of cancer. With that knowledge, people can begin to manage their risk for cancer through positive lifestyle changes or begin enhanced surveillance for cancer such as with supplemental MRI or ultrasound in addition to mammograms.
Early detection is critical for survival
Pat Halpin-Murphy, the founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, said repeatedly early breast cancer detection saves lives. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and the legislation is about preventing cancer. Ward, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, said her cancer was detected early but could have been detected even sooner if she had been able to get an MRI, which she said wasn’t offered since insurance didn’t pay for it.