Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks during a Capitol press conference on Monday, May 1, 2023. (Commonwealth Media Services)
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro signed legislation — his first since taking office — that lawmakers hope will save lives by enhancing insurance coverage for breast cancer screening and genetic testing.
The Democratic governor signed the Republican-authored bill in a public ceremony at the Capitol on Monday, saying the proposal reflects bipartisan efforts to “find commonsense solutions to the big problems our communities face every single day.”
The bill, which is the first-of-its-kind nationwide, removes out-of-pocket costs associated with genetic testing for hereditary breast, ovarian, prostate, and other cancers. It also covers supplemental breast screenings for women with a high risk of breast cancer.
Lawmakers unanimously approved the legislation introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, with the House sending the proposal to the governor last week.
“No one should avoid getting these potentially life-saving treatments because they can’t afford it,” Shapiro said. “And thanks to Kim Ward, they won’t have to.”
Ward received a breast cancer diagnosis and underwent a double mastectomy in 2021. She has talked openly about her experience trying to get a screening and previously described the legislation as a “prevention bill,” noting that her insurance and position as a lawmaker helped her access testing not everyone could afford.
“These are a couple of things that I think we could do. But you know, nobody does this alone,” Ward said, thanking Sens. Devlin Robinson, R-Allegheny, and Tracy Pennycuick, R-Montgomery, who co-prime sponsored the bill.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 264,000 breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women and 2,400 in men annually in the United States. About 42,000 women and 500 men nationwide die annually from breast cancer.
Pennsylvania reports approximately 14,000 new breast cancer cases each year, Ward said.
“For Black women, the statistics are even more alarming, as it is the No. 1 cause of cancer death for Black women at an alarming rate of 31%, but there is hope,” House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, said. “Now, as a result of this new law, more Pennsylvanians will have access to the screening and genetic counseling that can lead to an early diagnosis and save lives.”
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