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Bill seeks more HPV coverage

By Marissa Cumbers

New legislation proposed in a Michigan Senate committee would require health insurance providers to cover testing for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Insurance providers would be required to cover the HPV test, which exposes a virus that is linked to cervical cancer, under a two-bill package sponsored by state Sen. Martha Scott, D-Highland Park.

“Women are dying before their time because they can’t have this test,” Scott said.

Most insurance plans include coverage of a Pap test to test for signs of cervical cancer and this legislation would require the HPV test to be included with that, Scott said.

“We know just the Pap smear is not enough and (because) we know something, we need to try and save these lives of these women,” she said.

The bill was referred to the Senate Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee in early February but hasn’t yet been scheduled in committee.

Committee Chairman state Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond Township, said including HPV testing on all plans takes away an individual’s ability to choose a plan tailored to their needs or situation.

“My primary concern is that the bill would force all Michigan residents with health insurance, whether through their employer or through the individual market, to purchase coverage for this screening, regardless of their age, gender or specific health situation,” he said in an e-mail.

“While I think women should consider choosing from the many health insurance plans that cover this screening, mandating that everyone must purchase this coverage unnecessarily adds costs to the health care system.”

Advertising senior Alisha Saddler said requiring the coverage could save lives.

“It would be a great thing for insurance companies to cover,” she said. “It’s a basic health need.”

Scott said additional HPV testing is the best way to detect the high-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

In 2008, there were about 330 new cases of cervical cancer in Michigan, according to the American Cancer Society, or ACS.

Judy Stewart, ACS director of state government relations, said the society has not yet taken an official stance on the legislation.

“Generally, we advocate for people to have coverage for all cancer screenings and treatments,” she said.

About 11,070 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 3,870 women died of the disease in 2008, according to estimations from ACS.

Some students said it isn’t the state’s job to determine what is included on insurance plans.

“You should be able to choose what’s on your insurance,” accounting graduate student Ryan Smith said. “You are paying the money to be insured.”