Angelina Jolie’s genetic testing far from affordable for most women

Posted at 7:48 PM, May 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-14 20:31:24-04

Manhattan- Angelina Jolie’s recent editorial and admission in the New York Times has the potential to save lives by raising awareness regarding a preventative action say some specialists.  Dr. Zsofia Stadler, who is a Clinical Geneticist and Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, is one of them.  Dr. Stadler believes the renewed attention on breast cancer and now genetic testing is positive and should empower women, but still should be approached cautiously.

“It is not a test for everyone.  You really have to consider what that individuals risk of carrying this genetic mutation is,” said Stadler.

The genetic test simply requires drawing blood.  Geneticists are looking for are mutations in genes known at BRCA1 and BRCA 2 and the existence of those mutations means a patient’s chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer are substantially increased from a person without the mutation, according to Stadler.

But it is expensive with a price tag of more than $3,000 for genetic sequencing. For those without insurance, the out of pocket cost could simply be too much for what is viewed as the earliest detection possible.

PIX11 talked to representatives at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare regarding their specific policies and if it catered to the preventative treatment.  While policies differed from state to state, region by region and of course, company by company, the short answer from both was yes, they do provide coverage for genetic testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, both said there were conditions.

UnitedHealthcare, for example, said coverage is offered to members “determined to be high risk for breast cancer.”

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield said a patient must first prove the test was medically necessary and would have to meet certain criteria, such as the existence of family history of cancer, early onset of breast cancer in the family or multiple occurrences of cancer to name a few.

If a member of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield tested positive for the mutation, a risk reduction mastectomy would be covered.