NJ lawmakers want insurance to cover cancer exams for younger women
Michelle DeVita, a mother of two from Hopewell Township in Cumberland County died last year after developing breast cancer. She was 38.
The cancer had come as a surprise because, as a result of her young age, she had never been tested or gotten a mammogram, which are recommended for women over 40. But women under 40 can also develop this disease.
That's why three South Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation, which they're calling Michelle's Law, that would require health insurance plans cover the cost of a mammogram for younger women if the exam is recommended by a doctor. Under current law, health plans are only required to cover mammograms for women over 40.
Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Cape May, said women under 40 should not have to fight insurance companies to have a mammogram covered, especially if a doctor is recommending one.
"I just want to make that we're protecting women's rights and health rights at this point in time. We need to look out for all women, not in special age demographics but all women need to be represented by our medical teams," McClellan said.
Almost 8,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the state, according to the American Cancer Society of New Jersey. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women, behind lung cancer.
McClellan pointed out that women of color under 40 years old are most at risk of developing breast cancer compared to white women. He said reports show black women under age 35 are diagnosed with breast cancer at a rate two times higher than white women and die from breast cancer three times as often as white women.
State Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, another sponsor of the bill, said healthcare providers should be able to "exercise their specialized skills to diagnose and treat breast cancer without interference from insurers more concerned about the bottom line than saving lives."
"The disease is difficult enough without the indignity of worrying about how to pay for treatment," Assemblyman Erik Simonsen, R-Cape May, a sponsor, said. "Young women fighting the disease shouldn't be treated any differently by insurance companies."