WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. government officials say under the Affordable Care Act most health insurance companies will cover drugs that help prevent breast cancer for free.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., wrote in a blog that an independent panel of experts -- the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force -- recently recommended clinicians offer chemo-preventive medications such as tamoxifen or raloxifene for women who are at an increased risk for breast cancer -- provided they are also at a low risk for adverse effects of the medication.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology also recommended these medications to certain women who are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
"These are risk-reducing medications which have been shown in randomized, controlled trials to significantly reduce the relative risk for certain types of breast cancer in women who are at an increased risk for this disease. But there have been questions as to whether these medications are considered prevention for the purpose of consumer protections," Sebelius ad Wasserman Schultz said.
"The Department of Health & Human Services issued guidance to clarify that under the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance companies and employer plans must cover tamoxifen and raloxifene -- like other recommended preventive services -- without co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses for women at increased risk for breast cancer."
U.S. breast cancer mortality rates are going down, because it is being detected earlier and it is being treated more effectively, Sebelius said. Today there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida's 23rd Congressional District, is a breast cancer survivor who carries the BRCA 2 genetic mutation and uses tamoxifen as part of her ongoing treatment.