FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now, the world's leading breast cancer organization is criticizing a recent veto by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
He shut down a bill aimed at eliminating high costs for breast cancer screenings.
In March, Action News reported that the bill's author said Californians shouldn't worry about the cost of a screening, if their doctor sees something suspicious and wants an extra one done.
"You absolutely need to know what you're dealing with," Assemblywoman Laura Friedman told Action News. "Putting that off for weeks, months, years...puts your own life at risk."
Senate Bill 974, previously Assembly Bill 2024, passed the California State Legislature with bipartisan support.
However, Newsom vetoed the bill at the end of September.
"We were very much taken aback with the veto, especially in light of the fact that we have passed two other bills already in this calendar year with Governors signing bills in Oklahoma and in Georgia. So we were very surprised to see the veto," said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for Susan G. Komen.
The bill would have required state-regulated health plans to cover diagnostic or supplemental breast exams following an abnormal mammogram.
In his veto memo, Newsom cited federal breast cancer screening guidelines do not include diagnostic imaging.
He went on to say the bill would increase health care costs, noting it prohibits health plans and insurance policies from imposing cost-sharing for these services, which would increase premiums by more than $117 million.
Breast cancer advocates with Susan G. Komen said that's not the case.
"In our opinion, a little short sighted, because if you look at the cost, just on the financial side, not the personal impact; but the cost of treating a breast cancer at an early stage is significantly less than treating the cancer at stage two or stage three," Guthrie said.
The organization already expects an uptick in cancer diagnoses and deaths due to delayed annual screenings during the pandemic. Plus, the organization knows many will have to pay out of pocket for supplemental screenings.
"We need to remove these barriers for the whole screening continuum, if we want to truly get to a place where we're hopefully detecting cancers at an earlier stage, when you're going to have better outcomes for the patients themselves," Guthrie said.
SB 974 is currently in the Senate. Two-thirds vote in each house can override the Governor's veto.