SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A law passed by state Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, preventing big insurance companies from denying patients access to critical breast cancer screenings will go into effect Jan. 1.
“The big insurance companies are profiting off the dangers of breast cancer, and women are paying higher and higher prices to stay safe,” Halpin said. “Diagnostic mammograms are a crucial tool for doctors, not some extra procedure women can safely skip. Every insurance plan has to cover these essential exams; this new law makes sure of that.”
Halpin helped pass Senate Bill 162, which expands coverage for mammograms. Beginning next month, insurance companies will be required to cover diagnostic mammograms, which are typically done to follow up and collect more information after a preventative screening indicated signs of breast cancer. Currently, regularly-scheduled preventative mammograms must be covered, but physician-requested diagnostic mammograms are not, and patients are forced to share the cost of the procedure. Halpin’s legislation received strong bipartisan support.
In 2016, the CDC reported 17.3 million mammograms. In about 12% of cases, women were called back for another, more thorough diagnostic mammogram—which is currently not covered by many health insurance providers. Estimates indicate that doctors regularly requesting a second mammogram has lowered cancer mortality by about 40%.
“While medical advances have made breast cancer significantly more manageable, those advances lose a lot of their effectiveness if the cancer isn’t caught early enough. Doctors use diagnostic mammograms to catch breast cancer early, and they save countless lives with this procedure,” Halpin said. “When big insurance companies cut coverage for diagnostic mammograms, they are prioritizing their profits above an irreplaceable medical procedure. This won’t be allowed to continue.”