Murkowski Joins Legislation to Improve Access to Lifesaving Breast Cancer Screenings

Today, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced S. 1936, the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act of 2019, to postpone recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that would limit access to breast cancer screening for women in their 40s. It would continue the moratorium on the USPSTF recommendations, which Congress has extended several times.

The PALS Act is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“Breast cancer is far too common a disease. One woman out of eight will develop some form of breast cancer during her life, so most of us know firsthand how devastating it can be for our families and friends. By making these screenings available during an age in which this disease can be most aggressive, it is possible to save the lives of so many sisters, daughters, mothers and even grandmothers,” said Senator Blackburn.

“We know that early detection of breast cancer is key to survival and that access to affordable screenings plays a major role in whether women receive mammography services. Our bill would ensure women continue to be covered for breast cancer screenings at no cost,” said Senator Feinstein.

“Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to any woman at any time. And the earlier a woman is screened and diagnosed, the better chance she has to be treated and hopefully cured. With early diagnosis being such a critical factor in effective treatment, we shouldn’t put women at risk of losing coverage for life-saving preventative screenings,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alaskans already face some of the highest health care costs in the nation. Removing additional coverage would make receiving affordable care even more difficult. This extended “time-out” will provide the opportunity to continue thoughtful discussion among leading clinical and advocacy organizations on how to ensure women have proper access to the health care services they need.”

“Until we have a cure for breast cancer, it’s essential that all women who choose to be screened have access to these services,” said Senator Capito. “I’m proud to sponsor this bill with my colleagues and to continue raising awareness and saving lives.”

“The statistics are scary: more than 40,000 Americans will die from breast cancer this year. Early detection can save lives, which is why it’s critical that women of all ages have access to affordable, timely breast cancer screenings,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan effort continues Congress’ commitment to ensure that women as young as 40 can get mammograms without worrying about costly deductibles or cost-sharing. No one should be dissuaded from seeking a preventative cancer screening because the cost is too high – this legislation will help eliminate that barrier to care.”

“One of the most important tools we have to combat breast cancer is early detection of this terrible disease. Access to mammograms could be lifesaving, but new recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force could potentially take away access to insurance coverage for these essential screenings from millions of women,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act would postpone these harmful recommendations, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to help ensure that women around the country can get the care they need.”

“Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in Mississippi and claims the lives of hundreds of women in Mississippi every year,” Senator Hyde-Smith said.  “I’m proud to cosponsor this bill, which recognizes the risks don’t begin when you turn 50 and requires insurers to continue coverage for breast cancer screenings for women in their 40s.”

“We’ve made enormous strides in the fight against breast cancer, but there is more to be done to give women the tools and support they need to detect this disease. Our bipartisan bill works to ensure that women can continue accessing important, preventive screenings,” said Senator Klobuchar.

“The strongest tools in our arsenal against cancer are screenings and early treatment,” said Senator Portman. “Expanding opportunities for women to receive breast cancer screenings is common sense, and that’s why I’m proud to be joining my colleagues in sponsoring the PALS Act. Until we have a cure, we must ensure that everyone has access to these life-saving screenings.”

“We know that early cancer detection saves lives and that people are more likely to seek preventive health services when it is covered by their insurance,” said Senator Warren. “I’m fighting to make sure women continue to have that important, early access to breast cancer screenings.”

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American College of Radiology, American Women Unite for Breast Cancer Screening, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Breast Friends, Bright Pink, DenseBreast Info. Inc, Don’t Be a Chump! Check for a Lump!, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Men Against Breast Cancer, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, National Black Nurse Association, National Consortium of Breast Centers, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Prevent Cancer Foundation, Servicewomen’s Action Network, Sharsheret, Society of Breast Imaging, Susan G. Komen, and Tigerlily Foundation support this legislation.

A companion bill was introduced by Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) in the House of Representatives on May 15.