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Introduction of Diagnostic and Supplemental Imaging Legislation Would Benefit Thousands of Californians

Susan G. Komen Commends Bill Introduction; Urges Quick Passage

SACRAMENTO – Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) for working with Komen to introduce legislation that would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. In 2023, more than 32,020 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 4,680 will die of the disease in California alone.

We are grateful to the California Senate and General Assembly for passing this legislation last year. Unfortunately, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed it, saying it overstepped federal screening guidelines and would increase health care costs. Komen issued a statement expressing disappointment and looks forward to working with the legislature and Gov. Newsom to enact this bill into law this year.

“This legislation does not overstep federal guidelines and any additional health care costs are likely to be offset by savings from earlier detection of breast cancer. This bill can make an immediate impact for thousands of people who require diagnostic or supplemental breast imaging yet are unable to afford it and often forego the tests,” said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need and afford it, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”

SB 257, introduced by Sen. Portantino, would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging (such as an MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) when medically necessary. These exams can be extremely expensive and require people to pay high out-of-pocket costs – all before more expensive treatment even begins.

Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients in California range from $265 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $3,000 for a breast MRI. The cost of the test prevents individuals in California from getting the imaging they require, making it difficult to detect their breast cancer as early as possible. 

An estimated 16 percent of people who receive annual screening mammograms nationwide get called back for diagnostic imaging. Additionally, these tests are often recommended for those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some individuals who are considered at high-risk for breast cancer, making their out-of-pocket costs particularly burdensome to those individuals.

“I am proud to reintroduce a measure that recognizes the importance of follow up diagnostic testing for breast cancer screenings,” said Sen. Portantino. “Health insurance only covers the initial mammogram and does not extend to these crucial follow-up diagnostics, which may save lives. SB 257 significantly impacts health outcomes for women. 

The use of breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics have led to significant increases in the early detection of breast cancer in the past 30 years. However, this is not true across all demographics. Evidence shows that Black and Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, perhaps due to delays in follow-up imaging after abnormal findings on an annual mammogram.

More diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging is likely going to be needed due to “missed” breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn that missed mammograms could lead to more later-stage breast cancer diagnoses, once detected, so it is critically important that we increase access to affordable tests to those who medically require it.