From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
August 20, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Legislation Requiring Insurance Coverage for Prostate Cancer Tests Signed Into Law

AUSTIN, Tx. -- Legislation by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Representative Brian McCall (R-Plano) requiring health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care entities to cover annual prostate cancer tests was signed today by Governor George W. Bush at a ceremony in the State Capitol in Austin. Senate Bill 258 allows men over 50 and those over 40 who are at risk of contracting the disease to be eligible for annual prostate cancer tests.

"Prostate cancer is the most common cancer illness in men," said Senator Ellis. "One in five men will suffer from prostate cancer in their lifetime. Early detection can stop the disease in its most treatable stage."

Approximately 18,000 new cases of prostate cancer were recorded in Texas in 1996. The incidence of prostate cancer in African American males is the highest in the world -- attacking African Americans at a rate 37 percent higher than whites. If detected early, there is nearly a 90 percent survival rate for victims of prostate cancer.

"By making prostate cancer tests more available to men in Texas, we can detect the disease earlier and significantly improve the chances for recovery," said Ellis. "No one should go without potentially life-saving prevention measures because they cannot afford the tests needed to diagnose the disease."

Only 57 percent of men with prostate cancer are diagnosed while the disease is in its early stage. The American Medical Association reports that the prostate specific antigen test (PSA) is a reliable indicator of the disease. Both the PSA and physical exams are endorsed by the American Cancer Society as effective tools in the early detection of prostate cancer.

Ellis said illness due to prostate cancer costs the nation $5 billion each year, yet screening costs are relatively low. Early treatment of the disease costs only one-third of late-stage surgical treatment. A number of other states including New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, Georgia and Minnesota have similar prostate screening laws. The Texas measure takes effect September 1.

"Coverage for prostate screening exams will help save lives by promoting testing, early diagnosis and treatment," Ellis said. "I hope this new law will enable more individuals to take the necessary steps to prevent the disease."