LIBERTY — A meeting last summer between state Sen. Lauren Arthur of District 17 and Amy Patel, breast radiologist and medical director of Liberty Hospital Women’s Imaging, spurred the two women to join forces to create legislation that helps high-risk women in getting breast cancer screenings earlier.
Gov. Mike Parson signed House Bill 1682 and companion Senate Bill 551 into law last month and it goes into effect Friday, Aug. 28. The law expands insurance coverage for breast cancer screenings such as breast MRIs for high-risk women in Missouri from ages 25 to 29 and screenings every six months with mammograms alternating with breast MRIs or ultrasounds from age 30.
“We are underestimating the breast cancer risk in young women in the United States,” Patel said. “When younger patients are dismissed, it’s hard on everyone. Even with a nurse navigator to help get through insurance providers, it’s tough.”
“Both Dr. Patel and I are driven to expand access to health care,” Arthur, a Democrat whose Senate district includes parts of Liberty, Gladstone and North Kansas City, said. “I had heard about Dr. Patel’s work and what she is trying to do to identify breast cancer in younger women.”
Unfortunately, younger women who have a family history of breast cancer often have to pay out of their own pocket for cancer screenings and because of this, put screenings off, Patel said.
“Insurance companies need to see that they can help save lives,” Arthur said. “Medically necessary supplemental tests that help high-risk patients are so critical.”
Arthur said when the pair brought the idea for legislation forward, they found skeptics in the Senate. Patel testified on the matter’s importance before the Missouri General Assembly took time off due to coronavirus.
“We attached this to other bills and got it across the finish line,” Arthur said. “I have heard from young women who have been impacted by this and they look forward to finding proper access to this preventative care.”
Patel said Missouri has one of the highest breast cancer death rates in the United States and Clay County continues to see escalating numbers.
“The data in the breast cancer community is showing how many lives can be saved. We started making recommendations by the summer of 2018 with data showing the needs for high-risk patents,” she said. “When we were alternating screening techniques, we had about 30% identified as high risk. We want to take care of patients, but we kept seeing them get denied, even with the risk assessments.”
More details on law specifics are included with the online version of this story at mycouriertribune.com.
Patel praised Arthur and her work on behalf of Clay Countians.
“This legislation is a step in the right direction. I believe the data will speak for itself and more women will think about assessments. Women are taking charge of their own breast health,” said the doctor.