State officials announced an agreement to enhance access to breast cancer screenings in New York state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called it the most aggressive action in the nation to improve access to breast cancer screening.
Together, these initiatives will build on that plan and help more women across the state gain access to the health care and services they need and deserve, they said. The agreement includes legislation to extend hours for screening at 210 hospital-based mammography facilities across the state and to eliminate insurance hurdles for mammograms and other screening and diagnostic imaging procedures to detect breast cancer.
“Early detection is key to fighting breast cancer and New York state is proud to be home to the most aggressive cancer screening operation in the country,” Cuomo said. “When Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was lucky to have caught it early. But not all women are that lucky, and many are not fortunate enough to have the flexibility in their schedule or the resources to fight this disease head on.
“By expanding screening hours and removing insurance barriers, this agreement will give our wives, daughters and sisters better access to life-saving health services so they too can get ahead of this disease.”
Flanagan said the three-way agreement reaffirms the state’s commitment to giving women the chance to live a long and healthy life. “That is why it is critical that we do everything possible to encourage New York women to get the screenings they need and deserve … We all recognize that early detection continues to be the best way to survive breast cancer and I am proud to be getting something so vital done for the people of New York.”
“Breast cancer touches the lives of so many women – our wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. This agreement represents our commitment to limiting its impacts by increasing awareness and making sure that women have access to the affordable breast cancer screenings they need to ensure life-saving early detection,” Heastie said.
He said the addition of mobile mammography vans will strengthen the fight against breast cancer by offering preventative services to communities that otherwise did not have access.
The legislation builds upon $91 million in investments outlined in the Governor’s State of the State Address to increase awareness and screening for breast cancer, including a public awareness campaign, community outreach programs, patient navigators, and mobile mammography vans.
The new legislative agreement will:
• Require 210 hospitals and hospital extension clinics to offer extended hours of screening for at least four hours per week to help women who have difficulty scheduling mammograms during the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. These hours include 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or Sunday.
• Eliminate annual deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance payments (“cost-sharing”) for all screening mammograms, including those provided to women more frequently than current federal screening guidelines such as annual mammograms for women in their 40s.
• Eliminate cost-sharing for diagnostic imaging for breast cancer, including diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and breast MRIs for women at high risk for breast cancer. As a result, women in need of tests other than standard mammograms will not have to pay any additional out-of-pocket expenses for these most common diagnostic tests.
• Adds public employees of cities with a population of one million or more, to the population of public employees in New York State who are currently allowed four hours of leave for screening for breast cancer each year. Current state law requires all public employers to provide their employees with four hours of leave each year for breast cancer screening. Now public employees in New York City will receive the same benefit as all other public employees statewide.
“I am proud that New York State is at the forefront of promoting breast cancer screening,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. The initiatives “will increase the chances of early detection, which will result in earlier and more effective treatment.”
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in New York state.