This has been an unpredictable and interesting year to work in state legislatures. Going into 2021, Komen’s Center for Public Policy was preparing for the worst state budget outlook in decades, uncertainty in how the state legislatures would operate, questions as to whether advocates would have the opportunity to engage in the process, or if states would even consider legislation not related to COVID-19.
While we knew it was going to be challenging, we also knew that we had advocate on behalf of those impacted by breast cancer so that they were not left out of the conversation. We had to ensure that state breast and cervical cancer screening programs were not decimated, and work to introduce and support legislation that would reduce barriers to accessing high-quality breast health services. We knew that many had lost their jobs and health insurance and were simply struggling to keep food on the table – and access to these services could mean life or death. Breast cancer did not stop for COVID-19 and neither could our efforts.
Fast forward eight months, Komen has led the introduction of 12 bills in 9 states and worked in coalition in more than 30 states. And, fortunately, state economies were able to weather the storm – with no major impact to funding for the breast and cervical cancer screening programs.
Most notably are our efforts to eliminate out-of-pockets costs for medically necessary diagnostic breast imaging. Currently, if the results of a mammogram yield a recommendation for a follow-up exam to determine if the patient has breast cancer, a patient could be facing hundreds to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. Approximately 12 percent of women screened with modern digital mammography require follow-up imaging.
Because of our efforts and the support of the breast cancer community, in 2019, we saw legislation enacted in Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. And in 2021, Komen led introduction in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas (an expansion to the 2019 legislation) to eliminate the out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound and breast MRIs for insurance plans that are governed by state laws and regulations. So far in the 2021 sessions, Arkansas and Texas have passed the legislation, making it law.
As a member of coalitions of other health advocacy organizations, we participated in efforts to reduce barriers to treatments by streamlining access to therapies, ensuring decision making remains between a provider and their patient and reducing out-of-pocket costs for patients. Komen also worked to expand access to state Medicaid programs for additional populations and limit the sale of insurance plans that do not comply with the patient protections included in the Affordable Care Act.
Despite the uncertain and challenging times, Komen remained steadfast in its efforts to ensure access to high-quality care for those impacted by breast cancer. Yet, while we have many successes to celebrate this legislative session, and will hopefully add a few more, we know much more work remains to be done.
We could not have done this work alone. We thank each of our advocates for lending their passion and voices to this fight. Please join us and make your voice heard! Sign up today to become a Komen Advocacy Insider by texting KOMEN [K-O-M-E-N] to 40649.