Dear Friend,

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to update you on a bill that I have introduced – H. R. 995, the Mammogram and MRI Availability Act – that would increase the availability of life-saving breast cancer screenings.  On October 7, I testified in front of a critical House subcommittee on the importance of this legislation, which would require insurance companies to cover mammograms and MRIs for those women most at risk for this deadly disease.

The Case for Action


Congressman Nadler testifies in front of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health along with Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Watch the testimony here.

We have all heard the startling statistics: breast cancer is the second leading cause of death of women in the United States.  In 2009 alone, more than 190,000 new cases will be discovered and more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.

We also know that prevention and early detection can be the key difference between life and death for millions, with the American Cancer Society recommending that women with a high risk of breast cancer – that is, those women with a strong family history of breast cancer or genetic predisposition – receive annual MRIs and screening mammograms.  Preventive mammography can find 85 to 90 percent of breast tumors in women and effective screening can help reduce breast cancer deaths by up to 30 percent.  MRIs help detect tumors at their earliest, most treatable stages and are recommended for those women who are particularly susceptible to developing breast cancer.

If we are to take prevention efforts seriously, then annual screening mammograms and MRIs designed to detect tumors early must be made available to those at risk for breast cancer.

What We Can Do Now

While annual screening mammograms are covered under Medicare and Medicaid, many private insurers cover only diagnostic mammograms—those used to confirm the presence of a tumor only after it has been detected.

Given the clear evidence that early detection saves lives, it is unconscionable that an insurance company would not cover such crucial screenings.

H.R. 995 is a common sense, bipartisan bill that would implement the recommended practices of leading breast cancer prevention groups.  It would require insurance plans already covering diagnostic mammography to extend coverage for annual screening mammography to women aged 40 and over, and for annual screenings and MRIs for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.

As Congress debates the contours of the massive health insurance overhaul, we must not forget that the prevention measures likely to be included in that final reform bill do not include coverage for preventive screenings for high risk women.  Only passage of the Mammogram and MRI Availability Act will ensure that these women have access to life-saving care and do not continue to fall through the cracks.

While too many have died from this tragic disease, many more have lived to survive breast cancer, my wife among them.  As we continue the search for a cure, let us mark this Breast Cancer Awareness Month by guaranteeing to those at the highest risk for the disease access to the preventive screenings on which their lives may depend.


Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

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