Missouri tries to ease access to breast cancer screenings

March 2, 2023 GMT

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri patients won’t be charged a copay for a second mammogram to diagnose breast cancer or another illness under a bill the state House approved on Thursday.

The GOP-led chamber voted 126-29 to send the measure to the Senate. Some female lawmakers noted that most of those opposed are men.

“Watching male colleagues argue against a bill that will increase access to breast cancer screenings is absolutely wild,” Democratic Rep. Ashley Aune tweeted.

Republican Rep. Brenda Shields said her bill will reduce costs overall by helping to identify cancer and other serious diseases early.

Democratic Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern described a friend who died of cancer at age 39 as she asked lawmakers to vote “with compassion” and pass the bill.

“When we talk about these things, we have to remember the people that we’re here to fight for,” Nurrenbern said.

But insurers don’t like the bill, and some lawmakers argued it’s unfair to limit costs for breast cancer and not other illnesses.

Republican Rep. Doug Richey said he opposes the legislation as another government mandate on the insurance industry, akin to former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“Because Democrats in the ’90s mandated mammograms to be covered doesn’t mean that we need to continue going down the same path of mandating to the point that health insurance premiums today are astronomically higher,” Richey said.

Shields argued that other Republican-led states have expanded access to breast cancer screenings. Tennessee lawmakers passed similar legislation last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Pennsylvania and Montana lawmakers are working to pass bills this year.

The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.