Eliminating Cost-Barriers to Breast Cancer Screening Will Save Lives
In California alone, 31,720 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. In 2022, 4,690 women will die from the disease. As a breast cancer survivor, I know firsthand that early access to diagnosis and treatment can save lives. That is why I have joined forces with Susan G. Komen and introduced AB 2024, state legislation to eliminate the co-pays, deductibles and other cost-sharing a woman would have to pay to get necessary breast cancer screening and diagnostic tests.
An estimated 16% of women screened with modern digital mammography require follow-up imaging. We all have been told over and over again about how important early detection of breast cancer is for survivability and effectiveness of treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health plans must cover screening mammograms for women beginning at age 40 if recommended by a health care provider. However, if your mammogram is inconclusive or if your doctor sees something suspicious and wants you to get an MRI, that screening test can cost women anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. Worrying about whether or not you can pay for your screening should not be a barrier to finding out if you have cancer.
A recent Susan G. Komen-commissioned study found the out-of-pocket costs are high in California for diagnostic breast imaging, ranging from $265 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $3,000 for a breast MRI. These costs can be huge financial burdens on women and families. There are women who report going over the cost-benefit analysis and decide to opt out of or delay getting an MRI, despite their doctor’s recommendations. Keep in mind, women who make these distressing decisions are so anxious at this point: they’ve been told that there is something suspicious on the mammogram, they need to get an MRI, but they have to put food on the table and put rent first. These out-of-pocket costs are particularly difficult for those who have been previously diagnosed with breast cancer because diagnostic tests like a breast ultrasound or breast MRI are recommended over traditional screening mammograms. When patients are unable to afford their share of the cost for diagnostic imaging, many delay care or forego follow-up tests until the cancer has spread to other parts of their body, making it much deadlier and much more costly to treat.
AB 2024, due for its first hearing in the Assembly Health Committee in April, will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for most necessary diagnostic breast imaging. While this bill is the first of its kind in California, similar legislation is pending in 10 other states, and some states have already passed protections against price gouging on breast MRIs including the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New York and Texas.
As a breast cancer survivor myself, and as someone who was sent immediately from a suspicious mammogram to a diagnostic MRI, I know the importance of early and fast detection. Believe me, cancer is scary enough without the stress of weighing overwhelming costs against a possibly life-saving diagnosis. You can’t put a price tag on life, but we also need to make sure that costs are not a barrier to diagnosis and treatment. We know that early diagnosis of cancer is far less expensive to treat, preventing unnecessary suffering and drastically increasing chances of survival. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, studies show that early detection and treatment of cancer is two to four times less expensive than treating cancer at more advanced stages.
I hope you can join me in the push to put health care first and help Californians access the care that they need.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on AB 2024, other legislation, our budget or any general comments or concerns. You can reach my District Office at (818) 558-3043, or by email at Assemblymember.Friedman@Assembly.ca.gov.