A long way to go... - The Pink Fund

A long way to go…

March is Women’s History Month focusing primarily on the progress women have made in the workforce.  We are still underpaid, Women earn 16% less than men on average. Women earn just 84 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women of color are among the lowest-paid workers in rural areas, with rural Black and Hispanic women making just 56 cents for every dollar that rural white, non-Hispanic men make. (Gender Gap Wage Statistics, March 1, 2024). 

But like the old Virginia Slims commercial, (and btw I am not advocating for smoking) we may have come a long way, baby, but we have a long way to go especially when it comes to healthcare. 

For six years I have had the privilege of sitting on the Advisory Board of The University of Michigan’s (my alma mater) Value Based Insurance Design launched 20 years ago by Doctors A. Mark Fendrick and Michael Chernow whose concerns for patients not getting the care they deserve and can afford, ignited their mutual passion to advocate for insurance design around high-value care.  You can learn more here.

Last week was the annual summit, focusing on a side effect of healthcare known as financial toxicity. 

Up for discussion and advocating for future policy change is the very fact that women whose annual mammograms return suspicious for breast cancer will have to pay out of pocket for additional recommended diagnostic screenings to confirm or deny that cancer is present.  Those screenings include Magnetic Resonance Imaging and/or Ultrasound and are currently not covered under the Affordable Care Act. Costs for those tests can range in the hundreds of dollars, often financially out of reach for many women.  

The Affordable Care Act  (ACA) required that annual screening mammograms for women over the age of 40 be covered in full with no copay or deductible. However recently we learned of a woman who was denied her screening mammogram because she owed the provider a co-pay for unrelated medical treatment. You can believe that sent my blood pressure soaring and a call to a health reporter to investigate 

Additionally, if you are part of the nearly 40% of women who have dense breasts, you may have to undergo additional screening not guaranteed to be covered under the ACA. And, if you require a diagnostic screening to further evaluate a sign or symptom of breast cancer, you’re also not guaranteed coverage. Many women forego the recommended additional diagnostic screenings due to cost. According to the Brem Foundation,  the average cost of a diagnostic mammogram, versus a screening mammogram is $290. 

If additional diagnostic testing is recommended, patients should ask the provider about the cost of those screenings so they can make an informed financial decision.  

Unfortunately, making decisions about your health and your life based on cost is a little like playing Russian Roulette.   

So, while we have seen positive change for women, there remains a long way to go.  And I for one will be advocating for further change so women are not forced to spin the cylinder in a potentially lethal game of chance with their very lives. 

To learn more about your screening options and how you might get help with costs for additional screenings, click here.  


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