Senate approves legislation to make mammograms more affordable

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(Host) The Senate has given its final approval to legislation that makes mammograms more affordable for many women in Vermont.

Backers of the bill say it’s needed because a growing number of women aren’t getting annual mammograms because their health insurance policies don’t fully cover its cost.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The genesis for the legislation came from Cassandra LaRae-Perez because she discovered that she would have to pay the full cost of her mammogram.

That’s because a number of insurance policies don’t cover mammograms until a woman has reached her full deductible, or in some cases, the insurance companies charge a large co-payment.

LaRae Perez is thankful that she went ahead with her mammogram because it revealed that she had breast cancer and she’s now undergoing treatment in Boston.

Under the bill, health insurance companies can’t charge individuals more than $25 for a mammogram.

Based on her own personal experience, LaRae – Perez urged lawmakers to pass the bill:

(LaRae-Perez) "I knew I would get a mammogram that year but I was concerned that other women wouldn’t knowing it would be out of pocket for people and the fact that I happened to be diagnosed with breast cancer perhaps made it more poignant for me more relevant for me but I think I would have pursued this bill anyway."

(Kinzel) LaRae-Perez says she’s concerned that many women forego having an annual mammogram because they can’t afford the cost – it’s usually several hundred dollars:

(LaRae-Perez) "A couple of hundred dollars is a lot to most people and so unless you otherwise have a reason to exhaust your deductible you’ll look at that two hundred and maybe you need to pay for heating fuel maybe you need to pay for shoes for the kids there are other expenses that may take precedence."

(Kinzel) Leora Dowling also testified in favor of the bill at the Statehouse. Dowling says she was able to pay for her mammogram even though she has a policy with a $10,000 deductible.

Her most recent mammogram showed that she had breast cancer. She says she wants to be certain that other women have the opportunity of detecting breast cancer at an early and more treatable stage:

(Dowling) "Because they assume and we’d all like to assure I’m young I’m not going to get cancer and of course there are no guarantees no matter how we live our lives we’re not going to be told some fine day you know it is cancer."

(Kinzel) The Vermont Health Department does have a program to help women pay for mammograms but backers of this legislation say the program’s income eligibility cap of roughly $25,000 leaves too many women at risk.

The measure will now be considered in the House.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


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