The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) has commended U.S. House lawmakers for passing an amendment mandating TRICARE extend permanent screening coverage for digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) for the nation’s service members, military families, and veterans. The policy was included in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal-year 2021.

An innovative diagnostic technology, DBT has proven more efficacious relative to conventional mammography, particularly for the millions of women with dense breast tissue or a high risk of breast cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, about half of women undergoing mammograms have dense breasts. TRICARE is the only national payer without permanent coverage of screening DBT.

“America’s active duty service members and their families deserve access to the same advanced screening diagnostics as those with private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid,” says Patrick Hope, executive director of MITA. “With the inclusion of this amendment in the 2021 NDAA, lawmakers continue the bipartisan practice of putting U.S. service members’ health and well-being first.” 

Prior to the July recess, House Armed Service Committee members voted unanimously to approve the NDAA with an amendment mandating TRICARE coverage of screening DBT. This amendment builds on efforts to expand DBT screening access undertaken throughout the 116th Congress.

Notably, in November of last year, Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) successfully urged the Department of Defense to offer provisional coverage for DBT screening mammography for TRICARE beneficiaries. While this change showed marked progress towards coverage equality, provisional coverage can be revoked at any time and only lasts five years. The House amendment, led by Representative Houlahan, would make coverage permanent.  

“Amidst a public health emergency, shoring up screening access for America’s military community is more important now than ever before. We applaud House lawmakers for fighting on behalf of those who have answered the call of service to our country,” Hope concludes.