Queens lawmakers’ historic bill makes New York first state to provide insurance coverage for people post-mastectomy

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State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (second from left) at the American-Italian Cancer Foundation mammogram screening event. (Photo courtesy of Amato’s office)

State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky’s historic and first-of-its-kind bill providing women with insurance coverage for aesthetic flat closure was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul on Oct. 14. 

The bill (A.8537/S.7881) amends the insurance law to ensure that women can have either reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy or choose to go with a flat chest after a mastectomy, granting women the right to choose how they want their post-mastectomy body to look.

The bill passed in both houses of the state Legislature with 100% unanimous bipartisan support. With this new law, New York has become the first state in the country to provide this type of insurance coverage, allowing flat closure procedures to be covered by insurance just like reconstructive surgery. 

“Breast cancer survivors deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by our health care system,” Hochul said. “Women who choose chest wall reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy will now have insurance coverage for the procedure and the necessary information to select this option. I am proud to sign this law during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and urge every woman in New York to get a mammogram this year.”

Roughly one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the course of their lifetimes, and many undergo mastectomies or partial mastectomies as part of their treatment to remove their cancer. After a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, some women choose breast reconstruction surgeries, while others choose chest wall reconstruction surgery. Previously, the law had only required insurance to cover breast reconstruction but not chest wall reconstruction, which was classified as “cosmetic” by many insurers.

“In New York we do not just want women with breast cancer to survive, we want them to thrive,” Pheffer Amato said. “Women deserve autonomy over how their bodies will look, especially after a mastectomy. Part of this bill is about allowing women to love their bodies.”

Amato added that she’s thankful to the advocates who had the strength to show her their chests had been mangled and were left unhappy with their bodies after a mastectomy when they chose to stay flat. 

“It is from their courage that Senator Stavisky and I successfully worked to give women a choice on how their post-mastectomy bodies will look, and that is what this law does,” Pheffer Amato said. 

Stavisky reiterated that women deserve autonomy over their own bodies. 

“If a woman undergoes a mastectomy to combat breast cancer, they have the right to choose from all post-surgery options,” Stavisky said. “If a woman chooses to undergo chest wall reconstruction, it should be covered by insurance, in the same manner as breast reconstruction.” 

If you or someone you love is interested in speaking with someone on flat closure, please reach out to the experts from Not Putting On A Shirt via email at [email protected].

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