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Diagnostic services could be provided free of charge after initial mammogram

One in eight women will get breast cancer.

It is the most common cancer found in women, though it affects men as well.

HF390 seeks to assist in early diagnosis and, ultimately, save lives.

Sponsored by Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka), it would require Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare and other health plans to cover any additional diagnostic services after a mammogram to ensure a complete breast cancer screening.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill, as amended, and referred it to the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee.

The amendment specifies that certain enrollees must meet their deductible first.

“The importance of early detection is reflected in the requirement by the Affordable Care Act to include breast cancer screening as an essential health benefit at no cost to patients,” Acomb said.

The only problem is that for a small percentage of people, the initial mammogram is inconclusive, Acomb continued. Those patients need additional testing with large copays ranging from several hundred to over a thousand dollars.

Further, Acomb said a Department of Commerce analysis concluded the bill would not be a mandate but, instead, a clarification of existing benefits.

A fiscal note outlines state costs totaling $677,000 for the next biennium and an increase to $955,000 in the following biennium.

Dan Endreson, senior director of policy and government affairs at Minnesota Council of Health Plans, worried about the scope of the bill, looking for clarification as to what “any additional diagnostic services” includes.

He said cost should not be a barrier to care and suggested providers lower the costs of their procedures if they are concerned about affordability.

Shaunequa James, program director at Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, said costs associated with diagnosis services and testing can snowball into a health and financial crisis for the most vulnerable populations.

“In addition, the lack of coverage for these services creates a disparity within minority communities that are impacted most by breast cancer with diagnosis, late diagnosis and mortality,” James said. “This cost burden is not exclusive to minority communities but is also highly impactful to our rural Minnesota communities who are already experiencing large disparities within cancer health access.”

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