Bill aims to require Texas insurance to cover 3-D mammograms

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - A bill concerning women's breast health is getting some attention in Austin. House Bill 1036 would require all commercial insurance providers in Texas, to cover 3-D mammography for breast cancer screening.

The technology is available in the Brazos Valley and according to Dr. Eric Appelt with Bryan Radiology Associates, 3-D breast exams are quickly becoming the standard.

"The images are obtained by the machine circling around the breast, essentially giving us various slices that we can then scroll through for better observation," explained Dr. Appelt.

According to medical experts, 3-D mammography provides patients with better chances for early detection, and is especially helpful for women with denser breasts.

"With this type of screening, if there is a questionable mass, we're able to see the make up of it clearer than what we would see with a 2-D" said Dr. Appelt. "Certain lesions may look like lymph nodes at first, but once you go through the slices, you're better able to tell if it's actually benign or not."

While the tests are becoming more readily available at hospitals and medical centers across the state, some women are still having to pay out of pocket for their piece of mind.

"Centers for Medicaid services decided to approve the test about two years ago, followed by Blue Cross and a few others that have approved it. But as of right now, not all insurance companies are on board," explained Dr. Appelt.

It's a fact that Harris County Representative Senfronia Thompson is looking to change, with House Bill 1036 tutorial. The bill fights for the idea that digital breast tomosynthesis technology is no longer investigational, and all insurance companies should cover it.

"Depending on the study you read, with 3-D mammography, cancer detection rate is anywhere between 10%-50% better," said Dr. Appelt. "So the timing of when you're going to detect a cancer in the breast has significantly improved when compared to plain digital mammography."

It's a test and tool that Rep. Thompson believes is crucial for all Texas women.

"When something provides a better breast cancer detection rate, and a smaller recall rate, meaning patients aren't going through the stress of having to come back and take more tests, in my mind it's a no-brainer," said Dr. Appelt.

House Bill 1036 was brought to the table back in January of 2017. It has since been assigned to the health committee for review.

Just recently, Cigna and United Healthcare joined the list of companies that will cover the test.

If your insurance does not cover the cost of a 3-D mammogram and you still want to get one, you could end up paying anywhere from $50 to $150 out of pocket. Most 3-D screenings will provide both the three dimensional images as well as the standard 2-D image you're used to.

Bryan Radiology Associates offers the screening at its facility and serves patients with College Station Medical Center and Huntsville Memorial Hospital with the 3-D testing.

Currently, CHI St. Joseph Hospital and Baylor Scott and White do not provide the 3-D screening.