Today, DC Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) is introducing legislation requiring all insurers in the District to cover one screening for prostate cancer per year free of charge. The District has the highest per capita rate of prostate cancer deaths of any US state and the seventh highest per capita number of new cases.
“As with so much in health care, early detection is everything. It saves lives, improves treatment outcomes, and saves money when smaller interventions can lead to better outcomes,” said Councilmember Allen. “At the end of the day, a co-pay for a screening can keep someone from making that critical appointment. And we don’t want that – we need people regularly consulting with their doctor, evaluating their risks, and ultimately taking the necessary steps to keep them healthy, regardless of their income.”
The bill would require insurers to provide coverage for prostate cancer screening in accordance with evidence-based guidelines, to include no less than one prostate-specific antigen test and digital rectal exam per year. Insurers would also be prohibited from imposing any deductible, coinsurance, copayment, or other cost-sharing requirement when a patient receives a prostate-specific antigen test and digital rectal exam.
According to ZERO Prostate Cancer, in the District, an expected 70 men will die of the disease this year alone. Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable versions of cancer when detected early.
"Eliminating out-of-pocket costs for prostate cancer screening removes a key barrier to early prostate cancer diagnosis - allowing more patients to be diagnosed at the early stages when they are most likely to survive,” said Jamie Bearse, President and CEO of ZERO Prostate Cancer. “Thanks to Councilmember Allen, the Cost-Free Coverage for Prostate Cancer Screening Amendment Act of 2023 will save the lives of patients across the nation’s capital, which ranks first in the county for prostate cancer deaths per capita, and ZERO is proud to be a supporter of this bill."
According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. Data suggests that African American men are 2.1 times more likely to die the disease. This racial disparity is currently the worst among all cancers in the United States. African American men are also more likely to get diagnosed with a more aggressive disease, at younger ages, and at higher incidence compared to white men when there is equal access to treatment. The disproportionate impact of prostate cancer on African American men is primarily due to differences in accessing adequate testing and care.
The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Henderson, Mendelson, Lewis George, Nadeau, Parker, Trayon White, Robert White, Frumin, Bonds, Pinto, and Gray.