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Bill would require coverage for breast exams at no cost

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Maleni Ferrari
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Legislation that would require insurance plans to cover diagnostic and supplemental breast examinations – and waive cost sharing by patients – passed its first committee this week in the legislature.

House Bill 27 passed the Health & Humans Services Committee unanimously. Supporters say it has the potential to lower treatment cost and save hundreds of lives through early testing. But opponents raised concerns over whether this would increase the cost of health plans.

This bill would require health insurance, including individual and group health plans, and public employee plans, to cover diagnostic and supplemental breast examinations and would require those services be available at no cost to insured patients.

According to a study in the American Health & Drug Benefits journal, treating patients who were tested early costs less than treating patients who had more advanced cancer when diagnosed.

Nancy Coombs spoke in favor of the bill. Her doctor recommended she get a diagnostic imaging test every six months for the next two years but. As a retired teacher who works as a part-time parish administrator, the $1426.90 deductible she must pay twice a year is beyond her income.

"If you're looking to pay a little bit out-of-pocket, you end up having a very large deductible," said Coombs. "And that’s not always the best thing for people that are living on limited resources."

Jason Espinoza, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, opposed the bill. He argued making health plans waive co-pays and cost sharing would raise the overall premiums for the thousands of small businesses.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Christine Chandler said premiums should remain stable and there should not be a change in Medicaid patients' bills because these services are already covered by those plans.

HB 27 now goes on to the House Judiciary Committee and if successful there, would move on to a full vote by the House.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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