Star-Telegram: Women don’t have to pay extra for 3-D mammograms anymore, under new state law

Texas women may soon have a better chance of catching and beating breast cancer.

A new law that went into effect Friday requires commercial health insurance providers in Texas to cover the cost of high-tech 3-D mammograms, rather than just the traditional 2-D mammograms that have been offered for years.

“I think we are going to be able to detect more invasive cancers at an earlier stage,” said Dr. Jill Chilcoat, a breast radiologist at Texas Health Southwest Fort Worth and medical director for the Virginia Clay Dorman Breast Care Center.

“If you can find invasive cancers at an earlier stage, you can save more lives.”

“That’s the goal.”

The new state law, known as House Bill 1036, means that women in Texas soon will no longer be asked when they go to their annual mammogram if they want to pay an extra charge — perhaps $100 or more — to have a 3-D mammogram.

Instead, commercial insurance providers in Texas will automatically cover that cost, as they do now for regular 2-D mammograms, when patients are at least 35 years old.

This change — one of 673 new laws that went into effect Friday — applies to insurance plans that go into effect or are renewed after Jan. 1, 2018.

This makes Texas the sixth state — along with Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Arkansas — to have a law requiring insurance companies to cover all mammogram costs.

“This is a great day for the women of Texas as they now have the peace of mind that their 3-D mammograms, the most advanced form of screening available, will be covered by insurance with no additional out-of-pocket expense,” James Polfreman, president and CEO of Solis Mammography, said when the bill passed the Texas Legislature in May.

‘More accurate and meaningful’

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by breast cancer survivor state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, worked to pass a measure updating the definition of a mammogram.

Thompson has long said 3-D mammography could have caught her cancer earlier.

Mammograms are X-ray pictures of the breast. And 3-D mammography — also known as digital breast tomosynthesis — is the latest, most up-to-date technology being used to screen for breast cancer.

Medical officials say this type of mammogram, approved by the Food and Drug Administration six years ago, is able to detect breast cancer earlier than the traditional 2-D mammogram.

3d mammogram
In this file photo, a radiologist compares an image from 2-D technology mammogram to the 3-D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis mammography, which can detect much smaller cancers earlier. Torin Halsey AP