PA regulation requires coverage of women's cancer screenings

Pennsylvania Senate President Kim Ward was working from personal experience as she sponsored a historic breast cancer screening bill. She was on hand as Gov. Josh Shapiro signed it into law.

He said he hopes it will save lives by requiring insurance companies to cover preventive breast and ovarian cancer screenings for high-risk women at no cost. Shapiro describes the legislation as “a first-of-its-kind law in the nation.” It previously passed both the state House and the Senate unanimously.

Ward received a breast cancer diagnosis and underwent a double mastectomy in 2021 and has been outspoken about her experiences. She has talked openly about trying to get a screening and previously described the legislation as a “prevention bill,” noting that her insurance and position as a lawmaker helped her access testing not everyone could afford. Ward has pushed for making it easy for the general population to access the same services.

“Pennsylvania is leading the nation in the fight against breast cancer by eliminating out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling for high-risk individuals, as well as supplemental screenings such as breast MRI and ultrasound for women,” Ward said.

“My personal experience with breast cancer presented me the opportunity to see where some of the gaps were in the system,” she said. “With approximately 14,000 new cases of breast cancer per year in Pennsylvania, what this legislature did by getting the Bill to Gov. Shapiro for his signature, will have a huge positive affect on women’s health and lives.”

Shapiro said that this bill was the first piece of legislation to get his signature.

“I am proud that the first bill I have signed as governor is a bill that passed both chambers unanimously — with Democrats and Republicans coming together to improve access to critically important healthcare and save countless lives in Pennsylvania. This bill is the first of its kind in our country, requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of preventive cancer screenings for women at high risk of breast cancer,” said Shapiro in a statement.

“This historic legislation is going to help women fight breast cancer and live healthier lives — and it would not have been possible without the courage, tenacity, and bipartisan cooperation of Senate Pro Tempore Kim Ward and Speaker Joanna McClinton,” he said. “I believe government can and should be a productive force for good — and this is a real example of the big things we can accomplish in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when we work together.”

Specifically, the bill will remove out-of-pocket costs that come with genetic testing for hereditary breast, ovarian, prostate and other forms of cancer, as well as supplemental breast screenings for women with a high risk of breast cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 264,000 breast cancer diagnoses in women per year, with nearly 42,000 women nationwide dying from breast cancer annually.

From The Philadelphia Tribune