Insurance covers mammograms, but Kansas patients are often on the hook for costly follow-up screenings

A bill that would have forced insurance companies to cover the full cost of breast cancer screenings failed in the Legislature this year, but advocates say they will try again in 2025. Meanwhile, state employees will get full coverage.

By Blaise Mesa

A bill introduced in the Kansas Statehouse this year would have forced insurance companies to cover the cost of specialized breast imaging. The bill died in committee without getting a hearing. But the state’s Health Care Commission approved beefed-up insurance coverage as part of the health care plan for state employees. 

Rep. Linda Featherston, an Overland Park Democrat, and Republican Rep. Laura Williams, a Johnson County Republican, have been trying for years to require more insurance coverage for the tests. 

Featherston said up to 12% of women are called back for a second breast screening because something was found on the first test. Of those women, 20% will skip the follow-up because of cost. While insurance may cover some of the costs, a patient might still pay around $1,000 out-of-pocket. 

Delaying follow-up screenings allows cancer to spread, and stage 3 breast cancer has around a 60% survival rate. Stage 4 cancer has around a 20% survival rate. 

Lawmakers in leadership positions in the Kansas House and Senate were reluctant to tell private insurance companies what to cover, but they did want to explore the cost of giving state employees this coverage. 

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, said the Legislature didn’t object to the idea of covering cancer screenings like a diagnostic mammogram for state employees, but increasing health care coverage requires time to study the cost. 

Featherston said starting out with state employees could show lawmakers that shifting the cost from patients to insurance companies isn’t that expensive. 

Nearly two dozen states require insurance plans to cover more exhaustive breast imaging. 

“This is not a political game. This is people’s lives,” Featherston said. “This is clearly, overwhelmingly supported by the House chamber, so we need to see that honored in the process.”

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Beacon