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Crucial medical coverage expanded for breast cancer patients

7/1/2019, 11:26 p.m.
State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, is demanding big insurance companies provide comprehensive coverage of breast cancer screenings, passing legislation that ...

State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, is demanding big insurance companies provide comprehensive coverage of breast cancer screenings, passing legislation that will require health plans to cover potentially lifesaving diagnostic tests.

"It's shameful that insurance companies squeeze every penny out of their patients, and women especially often face the impact of their greed, even in procedures that could save their lives," Connor said. "Even those procedures that are completely foreseeable and simple necessities for half the population, big insurance companies still price them like unpredictable medical emergencies. Their behavior has to change."

Connor voted to pass Senate Bill 162, which expands coverage for mammograms. Connor's legislation would require insurance companies 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 with their insurance company.

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%.

"This country is developing remarkable methods of treating breast cancer, but they only work if women can afford diagnostic mammograms to catch that cancer," Connor said. "If prices stay high, it doesn't matter how good our medicine is or how effective our operations are, breast cancer deaths will continue. I encourage Governor Pritzker to help solve this problem before more women feel its effects."