Sen. Tony Hwang Leads on Women’s Health Issues: Breast Health and Ovarian Cancer Screenings

April 29, 2022

HARTFORD – Late on Tuesday, April 26th, the Connecticut State Senate in a bipartisan unanimous vote – passed Senate Bill 358, An Act Concerning Required Health Insurance Coverage for Breast and Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility Screening.

Senator Tony Hwang (R-28), the ranking senate leader on both the legislative Public Health and the Insurance & Real Estate Committees led strong legislative support of SB 358, which encourages insurer coverage of preventative care and early detection for multiple cancer diagnoses that threatens women’s public health.  

This bill expands insurance coverage requirements for mammograms, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) for breast screenings under certain commercial health insurance policies. It also requires the policies to cover certain procedures related to breast cancer treatment, including breast biopsies; certain prophylactic mastectomies; and breast reconstruction surgery, subject to certain conditions. Additionally, the bill requires these health insurance policies to cover the following services related to the testing and treatment of ovarian cancer: (1) genetic testing, including for breast cancer gene one (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene two (BRCA2), under certain circumstances; (2) post-treatment CA-125 monitoring (i.e., a test measuring the amount of the cancer antigen 125 protein); and (3) routine ovarian cancer screenings, including surveillance tests for certain insureds. 

Sen. Hwang stressed, “this issue matters deeply for me – for my mother, my mother in law, my wife and my daughter. Every protection should be in place so that no woman – and no family – has to unnecessarily endure the news that a loved one has a life-altering medical condition that could have been detected early and an opportunity to find a medical recovery plan.”

“This is indeed an insurance mandate, I believe that advanced breast cancer screening using the latest tools and technology to save lives matters is an important policy choice. The health of our loved one is priceless. Early detection and prevention may possibly save healthcare costs and most importantly, save lives. Ultrasounds for women who have dense breast tissue means early detection and more options to healthy outcomes. This measure prioritizes research, testing and proactive healthcare,”

“Having been a strong advocate for these cancer screening measures for many years, I am so very pleased to see this bill pass with bipartisan support. To give some perspective to the potential impact these preventative screenings can have, one in every eight women faces a lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. That is one in every eight of our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters or other beloved women in our lives. In 2021 alone, there were over 3,500 breast cancer diagnoses made in Connecticut,” said Sen. Hwang “While additional requirements on insurance companies may have an initial cost to implement, in the long run preventative care costs far less – emotionally and financially than treating life-threatening illnesses.  Finally, I want to acknowledge those who wrote, emailed and testified – in sharing their stories – they are the true heroes who deserve the most credit for this bill’s passage.”

Additionally, SB 358 requires that the breast and cervical cancer early detection and treatment referral program provided by the Connecticut Department of Public Health give priority to women in minority communities with higher rates of breast/cervical cancer. The bill also requires inclusion of tomosynthesis in breast cancer screening where possible and the addition of HPV tests to program services.

Senate Bill 358 now heads to the Connecticut State House of Representatives for their consideration. The House will need to take up the bill ahead of the session’s adjournment on May 4, 2022.