Assembly requires insurers to cover mastectomies

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo to ensure that mastectomies are covered by insurance in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island law has set some requirements about what insurance coverage for mastectomies must cover since 2005, but stopped short of actually requiring that insurers cover the procedure.

The sponsors said the expense of the surgery adds to the burdens of people who are already suffering physically and emotionally. The bill eliminates provisions that allow insurers not to cover mastectomies, and also eliminates provisions that say they are allowed to require deductibles and copayments.

“This bill makes it clear that insurers must cover all of the costs of mastectomies, without copays and deductibles,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), who made the bill a top priority this year. “Breast cancer is a very emotional cancer, one that can leave even those who fight it very successfully with a tremendous feeling of loss. That loss should not be compounded by struggles to pay for their treatment, heal and recover their lives.” He said a number of women he knows personally or professionally have told him about being hit with unexpected costs relating to mastectomies, and that their stories made him feel strongly that the current law is not serving Rhode Island well enough.

“We all know someone who has fought breast cancer, and we try to offer them hope, strength and support. Today we are relieving them of a huge financial burden that adds to their struggles. No person who is experiencing breast cancer and has to have a mastectomy should also have to worry about how she is going to pay for it. Insurance should be covering this procedure adequately, so that people fighting cancer can concentrate on their health and not the financial implications of their surgery,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

The bill (2018-H 7002A, 2018-S 2224) is supported by the American Cancer Society’s Rhode Island chapter and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.