EDINBURG, RGV – Legislation that went into effect Sept. 1 will save lives because it requires insurers to cover advanced diagnostic mammograms, not just initial screenings, says one of the bill’s authors.

State Sen. Carol Alvardo of Houston visited Doctors Hospital at Renaissance to promote House Bill 170.

“This new legislation makes lawmaking worthwhile, especially knowing that Texas is one of only four states where these types of advanced screenings for breast cancer will be covered by insurance,” Alvarado told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“This means we can save lives. Women do not have to worry about what they can afford and what they can’t. They will now have the comfort of knowing that they can get the advanced screening and perhaps if they do have breast cancer, get that early detection and save their lives.”

DHR: “We are proud to celebrate this moment as a step forward in the fight against breast cancer.

According to studies, when it comes to women in Texas, one in five are uninsured. For Latinas the figure is only one in four.

Alvardo said much credit had to go to state Rep. Diego Bernal of San Antonio who had tried on two previous occasions to pass bills similar to HB 170. She also praised the work of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. “They were big advocates. They helped with the passage of this bill,” she said.

In her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Alvardo was asked if she had seen a 60 Minutes program where women where shown to be shocked at the cost of having a mammogram.

“It is scary feeling, when you have a mammogram, if you ever have to go back after the initial screening. I had to but luckily it was nothing,” Alvardo said.

“There is that period in between when they tell you there is something there and you have to go back. That is a scary feeling, a very uncomfortable feeling. If you have to add on the pressure of how you are going to pay for that, it is even worse. Nobody, especially in a state as great as Texas should have to choose between their health and their finances.”

Alvardo said she could not be more pleased than to be championing HB 170 than at DHR Health.

“This was the perfect place to do this I have always been impressed with DHR and the quality of the delivery of healthcare that they give to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. We know there are a lot of health challenges in the Valley with women. We are going to hit as many parts of Texas as we can to let women know, so they can have comfort in their mind.”

At a news conference, Alvarado said that prior to the new taking place, if there was an abnormal reading from an initial screening of the breast, a woman would have to go back for a diagnostic mammogram and this more advanced screening was not covered by insurance.

“That could be an out of pocket cost, $300, $400, $800, sometimes $1,000. If a women cannot afford that she may have to save up enough money for couple of months. Meanwhile if she has breast cancer it is progressive,” Alvarado said.

“This should not be something that we disregard. The passage of this bill will give women the ability to have that advanced diagnostic mammogram and perhaps get the breast cancer detected a lot sooner.”

Alvardo said she was “very proud” of HB 170 because it makes Texas one of only four states in the country to have such legislation. She noted the legislation received bipartisan support and thanked Gov. Greg Abbott for signing it into law.

“I cannot tell you how big of a difference this bill is going to make. DHR, and the doctors, are going to share some of the day to day experiences they have had in dealing with this particular mammogram not being covered by insurance and the devastation it has done to women.”

Alvardo concluded: “We are very proud that Texas is leading the way in women’s health in this regard.”

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a colleague of Alvarado’s, and state Reps. Terry Canales and R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra, who were colleagues’ of Alvarado’s when she was in the House of Representatives, also spoke at the news conference.

Speaking with passion, Canales said passing HB 170 was a “momentous”occasion.

“The fact is Texas is not always on the forefront to women’s health. When Texas stands out, head and shoulders, above what many other states are doing, the rest of the country should take note because we are generally not head and shoulders above the rest of the nations when it comes to women’s health,” Canales said.

“Women should not have to look at they bank account to determine whether they need a diagnostic mammogram. That was the reality. It is no longer the reality. We are moving forward in making sure women have access to the healthcare they need, life-saving healthcare, preventative healthcare.”

Canales added: “We hear so much about breast cancer awareness. This is action, this is not awareness. This is a call to action. This is the kind of commonsense legislation that we need. This is the kind of forward-thinking that will save our state hundreds of millions of dollars by preventing things that could have been prevented in the first place just by knowing about it. By taking commonsense measures to help not just women but the families that surround them.”

Dr. Ricardo Martinez chairs DHR Health’s cancer committee. “We are proud to celebrate this moment as a step forward in the fight against breast cancer,” Martinez said.

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian’s Shon Gonzalez contributed to this story from Edinburg, Texas.

Editor’s Note: The photos in the slideshow accompanying the above news story are courtesy of DHR Health.