Health Plans Should Cover Genetic Cancer Tests: Pol

Say Learning Risk Early Can Save Lives

Assemblyman Rafael L. Espinal introduced a bill requiring health insurance policies to cover comprehensive tests for ovarian cancer.

Medical specialists describe ovarian cancer as a silent killer because it is usually detected in women when it has reached Stage IV and has become too late to treat. Last year, Espinal lost his mother to the illness; the family was unaware of her condition until it was too late.

“I am introducing this legislation [A.3760-A] in order to emphasize the importance of preventative measures,” Espinal said. “My bill seeks to give women and their families the tools to prevent or treat ovarian cancer. This bill has the potential to save lives.”

According to an article in The New York Times, “women who carry [gene] mutations have, on average, about a 65 percent risk of eventually developing breast cancer.”

Recently, Espinal said, actress Angelina Jolie helped to bring the public’s attention to these risks. She underwent a preventative double mastectomy after learning, through genetic testing, that she carries a gene mutation which makes her 87 percent more likely to develop breast cancer and 50 percent more susceptible to ovarian cancer.

Espinal’s bill seeks to grant public access to such tests which will lead to early detection and prevention.

“Fortunately, Jolie has the resources available to afford these costly genetic tests,” he noted. “However, as the chair of the Subcommittee on Insurer Investments and Market Practices in Underserved Areas, I have found that most women who may have this gene mutation are not as fortunate to be able to afford $3,000 and upward in diagnostic testing.”

Ovarian cancer is usually detected at a very late stage, when circumstances have become fatal. Through genetic testing, however, women will be able to detect their predispositions early. This bill will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against women who have a higher genetic risk of developing ovarian cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the ninth most common form of the disease, with an estimated 22,240 new cases each year. However, it is the fifth most-deadly form of cancer, with an estimated 14,030 deaths in 2013.

“It is proven that individuals can lower their risks by making certain lifestyle changes; however, there are some factors that cannot be changed-such as age, race, ethnicity, family history and reproductive history-these factors are important in detecting signs of ovarian cancer early,” Espinal stated.

The bill will amend the current insurance law to include ovarian cancer screening under “adult preventative health services” and require insurance companies to include ovarian cancer screenings in their policies.

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