A University of Minnesota School of Public Health study found health insurance coverage and racial disparities exist in women who have undergone reconstruction after mastectomy. In 2013, more than 232,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and 37 percent of those women with breast cancer underwent a mastectomy, or the surgical removal of breast tissue. Of those, nearly one third undergo breast reconstruction to rebuild the shape of the removed breast. Breast reconstruction after mastectomy offers clinical, cosmetic and psychological benefits with low medical risk.
[Photo: Dr. Tetyana Shippee]
Study findings were recently published in Women’s Health Issues.
“After analyzing the data, the differences by health insurance coverage and racial disparities in rates of reconstruction were startling,” said Dr. Tetyana Shippee, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “Generally, insurance type should not be a huge part of the reconstruction decision-making process. This used to be the case, but in 1998, Congress passed the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act. Under the Act, group health plans, insurance companies, and HMOs that offer mastectomy coverage must also provide coverage for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. Also, since the 2000s, most states passed laws that require federal and publicly funded state programs providing coverage for mastectomy surgery to also provide coverage for reconstruction of the breast (including surgeries not covered under the Women’s Health Act).”
Despite new health policies to expand access, study findings show that insurance type played a significant role in whether women received reconstruction. However, access to health insurance did not fully account for the notable racial/ethnic disparities in care.