Introduction of Diagnostic and Supplemental Imaging Legislation Could Benefit Thousands of New Mexicans

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Representative Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos) for working with Komen to introduce legislation that would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. Last year alone, more than 1,700 individuals were diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 290 died of the disease in New Mexico.

“This legislation can make an immediate impact for thousands of people who require diagnostic or supplemental breast imaging, yet are unable to afford it and often forego the tests,” said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need and afford it, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”

HB 27, introduced by Rep. Chandler, would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging (such as an MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) when medically necessary. These exams can be extremely expensive and require people to pay high out-of-pocket costs – all before more expensive treatment even begins.

Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients range from $234 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $1,021 for a breast MRI. The cost of the test prevents individuals in New Mexico from getting the imaging they require, making it difficult to detect their breast cancer as early as possible. 

An estimated 16 percent of people who receive annual screening mammograms nationwide get called back for diagnostic imaging. Additionally, these tests are often recommended for those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some individuals who are considered at high-risk for breast cancer, making the out-of-pocket costs particularly burdensome to those individuals.

“We know that early detection is key to treating breast cancer. Unfortunately, right now patients who are at higher risk or need follow-up tests after an abnormal mammogram often face out-of-pocket costs that are extremely burdensome or prohibitive, even with commercial insurance,” said Rep. Chandler. “By eliminating those costs, we can make it easier for patients to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, which means more New Mexicans will have access to lifesaving care.”

The use of breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics have led to significant increases in the early detection of breast cancer in the past 30 years. However, this is not true across all demographics. Evidence shows that Black and Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, perhaps due to delays in follow-up imaging after abnormal findings on an annual mammogram.

More diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging is likely going to be needed due to “missed” breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn that missed mammograms could lead to more later-stage breast cancer diagnoses, once detected, so it is critically important that we increase access to affordable tests to those who medically require it.