Senator Daniel K. Akaka - Speeches and Statements


Hawaii Lawmakers Champion Bill in Congress

November 19, 1999

Washington, D.C. -- Legislation passed by Congress to restore certain cuts in reimbursements to Medicare providers mandated by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 contains an initiative proposed by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) to preserve high quality medical services for women by increasing the minimum Medicare payment for Pap smear laboratory screening. The measure, the Investment in Women's Health Act of 1999 (S. 1034 and H.R. 976), would raise the Medicare reimbursement rate from $7.15 per test to $14.60--the national average cost of the test--beginning in the year 2000.

The legislation responds to concerns raised by Hawaii pathologists on the cost-payment differential for Pap smear testing in the islands. According to the American Pathology Foundation, Hawaii is one of 23 states where the cost of performing the test significantly exceeds the Medicare payment. In Hawaii, the cost of performing the test ranges between $13.04 and $15.80.

"I am pleased that Congress has moved swiftly to ensure local access to this effective test that saves women's lives," Akaka said. "If the Pap smear is to continue as an effective cancer screening tool, it must remain widely available and reasonably priced for all women. Fair reimbursement is a necessary component of ensuring women's continued access to quality Pap smear screening. This rate increase is important because it establishes a benchmark for many private insurers."

The Pap smear is the most effective cancer screening procedure for the early detection of cancer. Over the last 50 years, the incidence of cervical cancer deaths has declined by 70 percent due in large part to the use of this cancer detection measure. Experts agree that the detection and treatment of precancerous lesions can actually prevent cervical cancer. Evidence also shows that the likelihood of survival when cervical cancer is detected in its earliest stage is almost 100 percent with timely and appropriate treatment and follow-up.

An estimated 12,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 1999 and 4,800 women will die of the disease.

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