By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
VINELAND, N.J. — Senator Michael Testa (R-1) announced last Thursday that he’s introduced a bill that would help combat breast cancer in New Jersey.
The bill would make it mandatory for private health insurers to cover the cost of mammograms that physicians order for their patients, regardless of the patient’s age. It is named “Michelle’s Law” to honor Michelle Devita, a Hopewell Township resident who died of breast cancer at the age of 38 last year.
Assemblymen Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan co-introduced the bill along with Senator Testa.
“I can’t imagine the panic, distress and worry a woman must feel when an employee at an insurance company rejects a procedure to diagnose cancer prescribed by a doctor,” Testa said in a press release. “This bill ensures medical experts can exercise their specialized skills to diagnose and treat breast cancer without interference from insurers more concerned about the bottom line than saving lives.”
At this time, mammograms recommended by physicians are only covered if the patient is older than the age of 40. Patients under the age of 40 with a family history of breast cancer can have their mammograms covered by insurance, as well, but Michelle’s Law would ensure that all patients can get a mammogram covered. Testa, Simonsen, and McClellan will introduce the bill on Thursday.
“Cancer can happen to anyone,” Simonsen said in a release. “The disease is difficult enough without the indignity of worrying about how to pay for treatment. Young women fighting the disease shouldn’t be treated any differently by insurance companies.”
“Although most young patients with breast cancer are insured, far too many are denied coverage,” McClellan added in a release. “Black women face a higher risk of dying from breast cancer despite similar rates, and this disparity is especially high among younger women.”
According to the American Cancer Society, Black women die from breast cancer three times as often as white women. Black women under the age of 35 are also diagnosed with breast cancer at double the rate of white women. October is recognized nationally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.
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