PA Enacts “First of Its Kind” Breast Cancer Screening Bill

  • Published: March 28, 2024
  • Updated: March 29, 2024

In May 2023, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro signed into law a new comprehensive bill, unique in the country, to expand preventative breast cancer screening, care, and insurance coverage. Senate Bill 8 removes out of pocket costs for BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling and other breast MRI screenings for high risk individuals. Certain BRCA gene mutations are associated with specific cancers. The average woman with a BRCA mutation has up to a 70 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 80.

The bill was sponsored by state Senate President pro tempore Kim Ward, Sen. Devlin Robinson and Sen. Tracy Pennycuick. The bill expands on Act 52 of 2020 which required insurers to cover breast MRI and ultrasounds for high-risk individuals but didn’t include BRCA genetic testing and still allowed potential co-pays and deductibles.

The legislation outlines two key components:

  • Coverage for Mammographic Examinations and Breast Imaging: Insurance policies must include breast imaging for high-risk individuals, including those with dense breast tissue, personal or familial history of breast cancer, any genetic predisposition to breast cancer, and any prior radiation therapy the patient may have undergone.
  • BRCA-related Genetic Counseling and Testing: Health insurance policies must now cover BRCA genetic counselling and testing for high-risk individuals, including those with family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Pennsylvania has been making strides in cancer legislation. Senator Pennycuick, an initial sponsor of Senate Bill 8, has also introduced legislation to designate March as Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month. An extremely aggressive cancer, those diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer have less than a 30 percent chance of survival after five years. In the U.S. Congress, Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY) is also advocating for this awareness nationwide. A multi-faceted approach to breast cancer awareness, treatment, and prevention, at both the state and federal level, can provide meaningful change in the lives of those impacted by breast cancer.