Using the Affordable Care Act to Prevent Breast Cancer

Photo: Tips Times (creative commons)

If you were in the aisle of any grocery store this month, it would have been hard to miss the fact that it was Breast Cancer Awareness month.  This year, as the month draws to a close, there is even more brightness to that lovely hue of pink emanating from yogurt tops and macaroni boxes to be excited about:  new qualified health plans that guarantee health services for breast health and cancer prevention!  The new plans are part of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period.

From now on, all health insurance plans must cover access to preventive health services recommended by the National Preventive Health Services Task Force, including specified services for women such as to mammograms after the age of 40 and to other diagnostics, genetic screening, and preventive treatment at an earlier age if you are at higher risk of breast cancer because of your health status or family history.  Services must be free to you even if you haven’t met the terms of an insurance plan’s deductible.  Ensuring that financial barriers don’t come between someone’s ability to stay healthy and prevent disease is a vital piece of the Affordable Care Act.  It’s the part of the law that will save all of us money and keep more of us healthier longer. 

The benefits are critical for Latinas, but many live their whole lives uninsured and without essential services that promote health and well-being.  While Latinas may have lower incidences of breast cancer than many of their racial and ethnic peers, far too many lack access to health services that would allow them to take on breast cancer if the need arose.  Consider that almost one-third of Latinas do not get the recommended mammography screenings after age 40.  And a disproportionate number of Latinas find out too late that they have the condition and the cancer has spread.  As a result, their breast cancer may be more advanced and harder to treat and ultimately lead to unnecessary repercussions or premature death.

Smiling DoctorThe Affordable Care Act takes the first step to change this situation.  It guarantees that all plans, whether provided by your employer or through private insurance, cover services necessary for the fight against breast cancer.  In fact, 4.6 million Latinas will qualify for marketplace insurance, the majority of whom will be able to purchase health insurance at highly affordable rates.  Not only will all plans now ensure admittance to screenings, but for the newly insured, their plan can be an expressway to primary care and other health services that lead Latinas to live healthier and avoid the risks of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for Latinas, and for most women, but it does not need to be this way.  The Affordable Care Act has clearly ushered in a new era where preventive care is expected and, more importantly, where doctors can focus on keeping people healthy instead of waiting until they are sick to help.  October is now not only an awareness month, it is a month where millions of women, including uninsured Latinas, will be able to take action by enrolling in better health insurance options.

To find out if you are eligible for the insurance marketplace, go to or  You can also call 1 (800) 318-2596 for assistance in Spanish and English.

If you enroll by December 15, 2013, your coverage can start January 1, 2014!

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