As women Senators, we take very seriously our responsibility to make sure everyone has quality health care that's there when you need it. A big part of that means making sure women have the freedom to make their own health care decisions and ensuring they have access to strong preventive care, including lifesaving screening and diagnostic services. This is important: We know early detection and prompt treatment of cancer is vital not only to saving lives by increasing survivorship rates, but also to saving money by controlling health care costs.
Fortunately, for millions of Americans, including millions of women across this country, important preventive care is more accessible than ever, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Before this new law, too many women were forced to decide between paying their bills and getting the care they needed. In fact, more than half of women would delay or even avoid going to the doctor for a checkup or screening because they couldn’t afford it or it wasn't covered under their plan.
But today, because of the Mikulski Women's Preventive Health Amendment, all new health plans must offer free preventive health care services, with no co-pay or other cost-sharing requirements. That includes mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, and more. Today, you—and your mother, and your sister—can get a lifesaving mammogram, or take advantage of a cervical cancer screening, without worrying how to pay for it.
Unfortunately, some women still face barriers to this care, whether it's because they live in an isolated area or don't have insurance.
That's why we were proud to work together to pass the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, to offer cancer screenings to low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women across this country. This program gives money to states to partner with non-profit groups and local health clinics that coordinate and deliver life-saving screenings to women in need. These screenings include clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap tests, HPV tests, pelvic exams, and referrals for treatment. Since its inception, this program has provided nearly 11 million screening exams for breast and cervical cancer to underserved women.
In 2007, we worked together across the Dome—Tammy in the House and Barbara in the Senate—to reform and refresh this bill by giving states additional flexibility, to make sure that women in need could continue to access lifesaving screening and diagnostic services and reliable follow up care. Now we're teamed up in the Senate, working together again to make sure this critical program continues to serve women across the country.
We strongly believe that all women should have access to the most current breast and cervical cancer detection and treatment technologies. That's why we'll continue to make sure women have access to the critical services they need to maintain their health.
We need you, the readers of Women's Health, to do your part too. Know the facts and empower yourself with the knowledge to make the health care decisions that work for you. Early detection tests for breast and cervical cancer save thousands of lives each year—but many more lives could be saved if more women took advantage of these tests. Share this information with your mothers, your sisters, your friends, and the other women in your life. And take advantage of the free preventive cancer screenings that are so essential to your health.
In the United States of America, health care should be a right guaranteed to all, not a privilege reserved for the few. That vision has guided us for decades. Now we have begun to write it into our laws. That is why we'll continue to fight for and protect expanded access to quality preventative health care services for American women.
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, in her fifth term as Senator for Maryland, was the first Democratic woman to be elected to the Senate in her own right and the first Democratic woman to serve in both houses of Congress. A leader in the Senate, Mikulski is the Dean of the Women—serving as a mentor and helping to build coalitions among the Senate women. She’s a devoted advocate for women’s health and has worked to end gender discrimination in health care, as well as guarantee women access to preventative care.
Senator Tammy Baldwin was born in Wisconsin and raised by her grandparents in the Badger State. After serving 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Baldwin was elected in 2012 to the U.S. Senate as Wisconsin's first woman to serve in the Senate and the first openly gay member elected to the Senate. Throughout her 25-year career in public service, she has worked to provide access to quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.