The Obama administration announced on Thursday that women at risk for breast cancer will be able to get preventive cancer drugs, like tamoxifen and raloxifene, at no additional cost to them under the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare requires most insurance plans — including those provided by employers — to cover preventive services deemed important by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government group of doctors and health care experts, without charging patients co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses. That provision has facilitated, among other things, free cancer screenings for heavy smokers, HIV screening for all Americans between ages 15 and 65, and domestic violence screenings for all women aged 14 to 46.
As the Huffington Post notes, USPSTF concluded in September that so-called “chemoprevention drugs” can be instrumental in reducing the chances that post-menopausal women at a high risk for breast cancer due to their age or a family history of the illness actually get the disease. But that left some uncertainty about whether or not taking the drugs should actually be considered a “preventive service” — an ambiguity that the administration clarified with today’s announcement.
The free preventive drugs could be especially significant for older black women, who are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women are. That disparity can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a genetic predisposition for breast cancer and a dearth of access to the types of prevention efforts that the new rules aim to encourage.