‘Game-changer’ cancer screening bill passes House and Senate, awaits final passage from Shapiro

BY: CASSIE MILLER – APRIL 26, 2023 3:29 PM

State lawmakers from the House and Senate celebrated the passage of a bill on Wednesday that would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing and screening for people at high risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

Senate Bill 8, which was introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, after her own breast cancer diagnosis in May 2021, will require insurers to cover all costs associated with genetic counseling and genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation for people with a family history of — or who are at high risk for — being diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer.

It also requires insurance companies to cover the cost of MRI and ultrasound screenings.

“Senate Bill 8 is a game changer,” Pat Halpin-Murphy, president of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “This is groundbreaking legislation. This is legislation that will save lives because early detection saves lives.”

House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, also celebrated the bill’s passage, noting that for women of color, breast cancer can be a “death sentence.”

Data from the American Cancer Society shows that Black women are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer at any age, but Black women under 50 are twice as likely to die of breast cancer compared to white women of the same age.

“When you look at the numbers of new cases, and when you look at the mortality rates, especially for women of color, it’s absolutely staggering,” McClinton said. “There are treatments done, but for a variety of reasons — most of them being late detection — they are not able to survive, and we fall and succumb to this disease too often.”

McClinton said she hopes the legislation will help Pennsylvanians get screened for cancer, regardless of their insurance plan.

“We can’t just ignore the fact that these screenings are necessary,” McClinton said. “But everybody doesn’t work in the Pennsylvania House and have insurance where they get the coverage to be able to get these screenings. Now, everyone will be able to get that.”

The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk for final approval.