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Ruth Vasquez's picture

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Two of my maternal aunts suffered from breast cancer when they were in their 50s and 60s. And while their story had a happy ending because they have lived for decades passed their diagnosis and treatments, this has not brought me comfort especially when I hear about the topic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women in the United States.

While Latinas, along with Asian and indigenous women, are least likely to have breast cancer in the United States, the disease has claimed 39,620 women’s lives in 2013 alone, according to American Cancer Society. Understanding and taking advantage of preventive measures is possible with the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), which coupled with a healthy daily routine can help us prevent major illness like breast cancer and the psychological, emotional and financial toll to us and our families.

Mammograms in Private Plans The ACA or Obamacare makes it mandatory for private health insurance plans to include free mammograms. However, plans that are acquired before August 2012 are not obligated to provide this exam for free and only have to comply with what the law asks for in each state. Before the law, the majority of states required that private health insurance companies provide mammograms free of charge to women over 40 years of age, but not all states required it. For example, while Alabama requires its private insurers to provide women 40 and over a free mammogram every two years – or whatever is recommended by a specialist -- Texas requires the same screening without an annual cost to women 35 years of age and over, while Utah is the only state that does not require private health insurers to offer free mammograms.

Medicaid This insurance, which is for low-income people, requires that all states provide free mammograms. The only thing that would vary per state is the age a woman can obtain this benefit and how often she may receive this exam at no additional cost. In addition, all 50 states provide healthcare coverage to patients diagnosed with breast cancer. However, the requirements in age, income, and other factors to receive this benefit varies by state.

Medicare The ACA offers those who are covered under Medicare a free mammogram every 12 months. While it is true that this insurance covers those who are 65 and over, it also covers those who suffer from physical limitations or advanced kidney disease. Mammograms continue to be the easiest, least invasive and most reliable method to detect breast cancer, at a cost of between $100 and $300, not including the hundreds of thousands of dollars it may cost to treat an undesired positive diagnosis. It is very important that in choosing a health insurance plan, we take into consideration co-pays and deductibles in prevention and treatment. This would give us the peace of mind that we are covered at the lowest possible cost. Share with us if you’ve had an experience with your health care coverage of mammograms or treatment of breast cancer.  

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