5 Reasons Why Mammograms Are Not Covered by Insurance

  • September 2, 2023

Mammogram insurance coverage can sometimes be confusing and unclear. It is crucial to understand the factors contributing to when mammograms might not be covered by insurance to navigate this complex terrain. This article seeks to provide clarity on the subject by identifying the reasons why mammograms may not be covered and answering common questions.

5 Reasons Behind Mammogram Insurance Denials

Understanding why a mammogram might not be covered by insurance involves delving deeper into a multitude of factors. These include the variations in health insurance plans, the interpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines, and the medical circumstances of the patient.

Age and Frequency Limitations

Mammogram coverage is often prescribed by the ACA guidelines, which recommend regular mammograms for women aged 40 to 74. To be in accordance with these guidelines, insurance companies often provide coverage for one screening mammogram every one to two years for women within this age group.

However, insurance coverage is not always guaranteed for women younger than 40 or older than 74. For these age groups, whether screens are covered ultimately depends on individual insurance plans and perceived medical necessity. Women in these age groups may face denials if they require mammograms outside the recommended frequency, such as those necessitated by higher risk factors.

Preventative Versus Diagnostic Mammograms

The type of mammogram also plays a significant role in insurance coverage. The ACA requires that insurance companies cover preventative mammograms, also known as screening mammograms, at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. These are routine checks typically done every one to two years for women over the age of 40, aiming to catch breast cancer before symptoms occur.

On the other hand, diagnostic mammograms, used to investigate abnormal findings, such as a lump or breast pain, do not enjoy the same level of coverage. Diagnostic mammograms often fall under a different coverage category within insurance plans and may be subject to copays, coinsurance, or out-of-pocket expenses.

Provider Network Compatibility

Insurance coverage also hinges heavily on the specific healthcare provider network established by individual insurance plans. These networks represent a list of hospitals, doctors, and healthcare providers with which the insurance company has an agreement.

Receiving a mammogram from a provider inside this network generally results in more substantial coverage from the insurance plan. However, getting screened by an out-of-network provider may lead to partial coverage or, in some cases, complete denial of the claim by the insurance company.

Employment-Based Insurance Plans

In some cases, the nature of the enrolled health insurance plan can itself influence coverage. Insurance plans that were in place before the ACA—known as ‘grandfathered’ plans—do not have a legal obligation to adhere to the ACA guidelines regarding mammogram coverage.

While many such plans have adopted the ACA policies voluntarily, some continue to operate under the pre-ACA rules, leading to potential coverage discrepancies or denials for mammogram screenings.

High-Deductible Health Plans

Insurance plans are often distinguished by their deductibles—the amount of money that the insured must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company begins covering costs. Some policies, known as high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), have high deductibles but lower premiums.

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In the case of HDHPs, patients bear the initial costs of healthcare, including mammograms, until they meet their deductible, after which the insurance covers a larger portion or all of the costs. As such, those with HDHPs might find that their mammograms are not initially covered until they reach their deductible limit.

Overcoming Mammogram Insurance Coverage Obstacles: Strategies and Resources

For those facing possible denial or lack of coverage for mammograms, it is essential to be equipped with strategies and resources that can help in overcoming these challenges. Key points of interest might include insurance policy amendments, financial assistance programs, and understanding the nuances of the relevant legislation.

Updating Insurance Policies

One option to ensure mammogram insurance coverage is to analyze and update existing insurance policies periodically. For instance, those with grandfathered plans that do not provide adequate mammogram coverage can explore transitioning to a plan that meets the ACA guidelines.

Furthermore, individuals dealing with high-deductible health plans might consider switching to a policy with lower deductibles and broader coverage. Both of these changes may require comparing different insurance options and seeking the guidance of healthcare professionals.

Financial Assistance Programs for Mammograms

For those who cannot afford mammogram expenses or whose insurance coverage is limited, various organizations and programs offer financial assistance. These include:

  • The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP): This program, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), targets underserved women and provides access to free or low-cost mammogram screenings.
  • American Cancer Society: This organization can provide information on local resources and financial assistance programs for mammograms.
  • Planned Parenthood: Some Planned Parenthood locations offer free or low-cost mammogram screenings to those in need.
  • Susan G. Komen Foundation: This foundation maintains a list of local resources and assistance programs to help individuals access affordable mammograms.

By researching these programs and resources, individuals can determine potential avenues to alleviate the financial burden of mammogram screenings.

Understanding Legislation and Mammogram Rights

Being well-informed about the legal landscape around mammograms can empower individuals to make better decisions and advocate more effectively for their healthcare rights. Key pieces of legislation related to mammogram insurance coverage include:

  1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA): This legislation establishes guidelines for mammogram insurance coverage, primarily for women aged 40 to 74. Understanding these guidelines helps one determine if they are eligible for coverage and identify potential discrepancies in their existing insurance policies.
  2. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act (BCCPTA): This state-specific legislation offers Medicaid coverage for the treatment of breast and cervical cancer, including diagnostic and treatment services following mammogram screenings. Under this act, uninsured and low-income women might qualify for coverage, so understanding this legislation can be helpful.
  3. The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA): This federal law mandates coverage for post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery and other breast cancer-related services. Knowing the provisions of this law can help those diagnosed with breast cancer understand their rights and make informed choices about their treatment.

By becoming familiar with these legislative frameworks and understanding their mammogram rights, individuals are better equipped to ensure that their insurance coverage is compliant with the relevant guidelines and better suited to their needs.

In conclusion, to demystify mammogram insurance coverage and overcome potential obstacles, individuals should consider updating their insurance policies, making use of financial assistance resources, and understanding the relevant legislation. Being proactive in navigating these aspects empowers individuals to make better decisions regarding their healthcare and ensures they receive the mammogram screenings they require without undue financial strain or inconvenience.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the ACA mammogram coverage recommendations?

The ACA guidelines for mammogram insurance coverage are as follows:

  • Women ages 40 to 74: One screening mammogram every 1-2 years
  • Younger women: Coverage for mammograms depends on each insurance plan, but many plans do not provide coverage for this age group
  • Women aged 75 and older: Coverage for mammograms depends on each insurance plan, but many plans do not provide coverage for this age group
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Preventative vs. diagnostic mammograms

Mammograms can be divided into two main categories: preventative and diagnostic. The ACA requires health insurance plans to cover preventative mammograms without any additional costs. However, diagnostic mammograms, which investigate abnormal findings, are not required to be fully covered.

Q2. Why are diagnostic mammograms not fully covered?

Insurance plans generally treat diagnostic mammograms as part of a larger diagnostic process. This means they may be subject to copays, coinsurance, or out-of-pocket expenses.

Provider network compatibility

An individual’s choice of healthcare provider can be a determining factor for mammogram insurance coverage.

Q3. How do provider networks affect mammogram coverage?

If a mammogram is performed by an out-of-network provider, insurance plans may not cover the cost. Always verify that the chosen facility and radiologist are within your insurance plan’s network to avoid extra fees.

Employment-based insurance

Some employees may be enrolled in a so-called “grandfathered” health plan, which does not have to comply with the ACA guidelines.

Q4. What is a grandfathered health plan?

A grandfathered health plan is a plan that existed before March 23, 2010, and has not substantially changed since. These plans do not have to provide coverage for mammograms following the ACA guidelines.

High-deductible health plans

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) require patients to pay a significant deductible before the insurance begins to pay.

Q5. How do high-deductible health plans affect mammogram coverage?

Mammograms, including diagnostic mammograms, are subject to the deductible. However, once the deductible is met, the insurance plan should cover most or all of the mammogram’s costs.

Q6. What do I do if my mammogram is not covered by insurance?

If your mammogram is not covered by insurance, consider the following actions:

  1. Discuss your situation with your doctor and explore any available financial assistance programs.
  2. Confirm if your healthcare provider is within the insurance plan’s network.
  3. Consult with your insurance company to understand why the mammogram is not covered and if there are any alternative options within your plan.

Q7. How much does a mammogram cost without insurance?

Mammograms can cost anywhere from $75 to $250 without insurance, depending on the location and type of mammogram. Rates could be higher for diagnostic mammograms compared to standard screening mammograms.

Q8. Are there any programs available that offer free or low-cost mammograms?

Yes, there are programs available that offer free or low-cost mammograms. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to underserved women. Other organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, may also offer similar programs.

Q9. How do I know if my insurance plan covers mammograms?

To determine whether your insurance plan covers mammograms, review your plan’s benefits and coverage guidelines or reach out to your insurance provider.

Q10. Are breast ultrasounds and MRIs also covered by insurance?

Coverage for breast ultrasounds and MRIs will depend on your insurance plan and the specific circumstances surrounding the need for these tests. It is best to consult with your healthcare provider and insurance company to determine coverage in your specific situation.


Understanding the reasons behind mammograms not being covered by insurance can help individuals navigate this intricate scenario. By being aware of age and frequency limitations, differentiating preventative and diagnostic mammograms, and considering network compatibility, insurance plans, and available resources, individuals can better comprehend their available options. It is crucial to clarify questions with healthcare providers and insurance companies while determining mammogram coverage to know the specific situation and avoid unexpected costs.