Senate Health Panel Gives Green Light to Measure
TRENTON – The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today unanimously approved a measure sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) to help women fight ovarian cancer by requiring health insurers to cover screenings for women who may have symptoms or be at risk for ovarian cancer because of family history or other health conditions.
“The mortality rate associated with ovarian cancer is way too high to ignore,” said Sen. Codey. “If this bill helps even one woman get a life-saving head start on treatment, it will be worth it.”
Bill S-132 would require insurers to provide coverage for appropriate and necessary diagnostic screening tests, including, but not limited to, an annual pelvic examination, an ultrasound and blood testing for cancer markers such as CA (cancer antigen) 125 levels. The coverage requirement would pertain to hospital, medical and health service corporations, commercial individual, small employer and larger group insurers, health maintenance organizations and the State Health Benefits Program.
Sen. Codey noted that ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Despite being only 1/10 as common as breast cancer, ovarian cancer is three times more lethal. Less than half the women with ovarian cancer survive five years after diagnosis.
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States. In 2007, an estimated 22,430 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and an estimated 15,280 women in the United States will die from the disease. In New Jersey, 800 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 500 die from the disease each year.
Currently, only five other states have enacted laws mandating coverage of screening tests for women who are at risk of ovarian cancer and/or for women who have ovarian cancer.
“When we enacted the mammography screening law in 2004, women and their families across New Jersey hailed it as a major victory. I believe the same will be said about this law, once it’s enacted,” added Sen. Codey.
The Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission reviewed the bill and concluded that the cost estimates associated under a number of scenarios would likely be minimal.
The provisions of the bill would take effect 180 days after being signed into law. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
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