PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would require insurance companies to completely cover the cost of colorectal cancer screenings.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in July 2019.
“I can personally attest to how critically important it is that everyone is able to get recommended colorectal cancer screening,” Goodwin said. “Cancer screening is routine preventive care that catches cancer early and saves lives as well as reducing health care costs down the road.”
The legislation would require all health insurers to cover the cost of colorectal cancer examinations and laboratory tests in accordance with American Cancer Society guidelines.
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 490 Rhode Islanders will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and about 160 of them will die from the disease.
That’s part of the reason why Goodwin believes health insurers should cover the costs for the screenings and follow-up colonoscopies if a patients screening results are abnormal.
“Copays, cost-sharing and insurers that don’t cover pre-screenings only discourage people from getting the care they need to protect themselves,” Goodwin explained. “This legislation will save lives by increasing access to these life-saving screenings.”
The Senate also amended the legislation to rename it “The Maryellen Goodwin Colorectal Screening Act,” to acknowledge the senator’s advocacy for cancer screening coverage. This is the third year in a row she has sponsored the bill.
“I never imagined after all my years of service anything would be named after me, let alone this very personal act,” Goodwin said. “My cancer could have been detected a little earlier and it was not the case, so I really don’t know how much time I have left on this earth, but I assure you and the members of this chamber that I will spend every living day advocating for early screening.”
The R.I. House will now take up Rep. Mia Ackerman’s companion legislation.
“I support the bill 100% and look forward to a House floor vote before the April recess,” House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said.
The bill did not pass the House the past two years under a different speaker, though it’s passed the Senate each year.