CA bill aims to eliminate high costs for breast cancer screenings

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Breast cancer screenings are proven to save lives, and now, a new bill aims to remove financial barriers in California.

Heather Skelton, of Oakhurst, was 18-weeks pregnant when she felt a lump in her breast during a self-screening. She saw her doctor, who sent her in for a mammogram.

"I was diagnosed on the 27th of February of 2020. So right before the pandemic hit," Skelton recalled. "I was told that my cancer diagnosis, they caught it really early."

Skelton said she was grateful for that. However, she couldn't help but think of the financial toll she might be facing.

"I started kind of worrying about the cost of everything with having a baby on the way, and then having to do all of the other tests and all of the treatments," she said.

Fortunately, Skelton's insurance was able to pay for most of the tests and treatments, but she knows many women and men whose insurance would still require them to pay high out-of-pocket costs.

A study done by Susan G. Komen shows costs range from $265 for a diagnostic mammogram to $3,000 for a breast MRI. The proposed bill wants to get rid of those costs, so patients have access to the necessary care.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, also a breast cancer survivor, introduced Assembly Bill 2024.

It would "require a health care service plan contract...to provide coverage for medically necessary diagnostic or supplemental breast examinations...without a referral by specified professionals."

According to Friedman, 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," Friedman said. "Putting that off for weeks, months, years...puts your own life at risk."

AB 2024 is waiting for its first hearing in the legislature, and Action News did not find any vocal opposition to it at this point.

Friedman and Skelton are hopeful there will be support for the bill, which they said, will save lives.

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