Rebecca Seawright Pushes Bill To Expand Breast Cancer Screening Coverage by Insurers

UES State Assemblymember Seawright’s bill–which she introduced with State Senator John W. Mannion of upstate NY–is meant to expand on 1989 legislation that required screening insurance coverage for first-degree family relationships. Namely, it would extend testing coverage to second-degree relationships (i.e. grandmother-granddaughter, aunt-niece). Seawright talked to Straus News about why she believes the legislation is necessary for all New Yorkers.

| 08 Jan 2024 | 06:57

A new bill that intends to expand insurance coverage for breast cancer screening to “second-degree” family relationships–such as grandmother-granddaughter or aunt-niece–has been introduced by UES State Assmeblymember Rebecca Seawright.

Current state law limits coverage to first-degree relationships, meaning that a sizable gap exists when it comes to providing insurance for people seeking vital early-detection mammographies. Therefore, patients looking to determine whether their family’s broader medical history will lead them to develop breast cancer have faced added cost burdens in doing so.

In an interview with Straus News on Jan. 2, Assemblymember Seawright explained why she believes her bill–which she’s introduced with State Senator John W. Mannion, who represents a district around Syracuse–will open a necessary new front in the fight against cancer.

”It’s very important that with over 15,000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer in New York State alone, with this terrible disease, that we make it easier for people to be able to get screened for breast cancer,” she said. She added that men are afflicted by the disease as well.

Seawright was hoping to rally more co-sponsors for her bill, considering that the 2024 legislative session began in Albany the next day. As of press time, the bill has advanced to the chamber’s insurance committee.

She’s not sure how quickly the legislation will progress, noting that budget negotiations will have to be finalized by April and that 2024 is an election year. “It takes a while for the bill to become law, but we’re gonna hit the ground running,” she said.

Seawright noted that while her office has a “very good relationship” with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and with NewYork-Presbyterian’s local branch, she hears from a lot of residents who are “suffering,” and could’ve certainly benefited from expanded coverage for early breast cancer detection.

According to the New York Department of Health, women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get a mammography roughly every two years. However, women with a family history of breast cancer should begin screenings starting at age 40. Seawright and Mannion’s bill would squarely address insurance issues for the latter group.

According to the DOH, risk factors that increase one’s chances of getting breast cancer include: having gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2, having one’s first menstrual period earlier than age 12, starting menopause later than age 55, not breastfeeding, being exposed to X-rays in the chest area, not exercising enough, and drinking alcoholic beverages.