When Cynthia Johnson learned she would owe $200 out-of-pocket for a diagnostic mammogram in Houston, she almost put off getting the test that told her she had breast cancer.
“I thought, ‘I really don’t have this to spend, and it’s probably nothing,’” said Johnson, who works in educational assessment at a university. But she decided to go forward with the test because she could put the copay on a credit card.
Johnson was 39 in 2018 when that mammogram confirmed that the lump she’d noticed in her left breast was cancer. Today, after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, she is disease-free.
Having to choose between paying rent and getting the testing they need can be a serious dilemma for some patients. Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive services — such as breast and colorectal cancer screening — are covered at no cost. That means patients don’t have to pay the normal copayments, coinsurance, or deductible costs their plan requires. But if a screening returns an abnormal result and a health care provider orders more testing to figure out what’s wrong, patients may be on the hook for hundreds or even thousands of dollars for diagnostic services.
Cynthia Johnson was reluctant to pay $200 out-of-pocket for a test used to diagnose her breast cancer after she detected a lump. Patient advocates and medical experts say diagnostic tests are necessary ― and should b …