Far too many Latinas suffer and die from cervical cancer—in fact, Latinas are diagnosed with this deadly disease at a rate 40% higher than their white counterparts. But there is hope: with adequate access to quality preventive care and treatment, we can end cervical cancer and it’s harmful impact on our communities. At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we advocate for polices that will lower Latinas’ incidence of cervical cancer and share educational resources and action kits so that Latinas can raise awareness about and prevent cervical cancer in their families, in their communities and for themselves.
We’re about to get some real help. With the implementation of the new health reform law, and thanks to the work of Congress and the Obama administration, Latinas across the US will soon have even more tools in the fight to end cervical cancer. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just “ACA,” new insurance plans will cover a number of services aimed to prevent cervical cancer at no additional cost to patients.
Starting on September 23, 2010, new health insurance plans began to cover the full cost (without co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance costs) of the following cervical health related services:
- Pap tests/ Pap smears: These routine exams are used to check the cervix for abnormal cell growth that may indicate early stages of cancer. The ACA will ensure that all plans cover risk assessment for adolescents and Pap testing for women 18 years and over.
- HPV DNA testing: HPV DNA testing is used for women 30 years and over to help doctors reconcile conflicting Pap test results and determine cervical cancer risk.
Additionally, while routine Pap tests (even after HPV vaccination) remain the most effective way to prevent or detect cancer at its earliest (and most treatable) stages, those who wish to boost their cervical cancer protection with one of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) may receive the vaccine at no additional cost, depending on your age.
Why is this change important to Latinas?
As we’ve pointed out before, Latinas have the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and second highest rates of cervical cancer mortality. The incidence of cervical cancer among Latinas is almost twice that of white non-Latina women, and this health disparity increases along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Of the many barriers Latinas face to preventing and treating cervical cancer, cost can be one of the hardest to overcome. This is especially true for the HPV vaccine, which can run an additional $390.00 (some reported paying $700.00) in co-pays.
Expanding access to services that promote cervical health will also benefit LGBTQ Latin@s including transmen, who face additional barriers to getting the care they need.
Coverage under the ACA is a hugely importance step that will get us closer to the day that NO one dies from cervical cancer, ever again.
For more information about cervical cancer, please visit NLIRH’s Cervical Cancer page.