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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Lawmakers reject effort to create free skin cancer screenings in Florida

FILE - Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Mannino checks a sailor for skin cancer the old-fashioned way during a screening exam at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego.
MC2 Dominique M. Lasco
/
U.S. Navy
FILE - Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Mannino checks a sailor for skin cancer the old-fashioned way during a screening exam at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego.

A bill proposing full insurance coverage of skin cancer screenings died in the Florida Senate, despite melanoma cases and deaths rising.

With the number of melanoma deaths expected to rise in 2023, state lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to make test screenings free.

But the bill, which would’ve required insurers to fully cover annual screenings, died in the Florida Senate. Having passed in the House of Representatives, it was referred to a committee, where it failed.

Democratic Representative Marie Woodson, whose districts include parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, co-sponsored the bill to make screenings more accessible. She plans to bring the bill back next year.

“I don't see why we could not see the importance of this in the bill and move it forward to take it to the finish line,” she said. “We need to make sure that we have measures in place.”

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Between 2016 and 2020, roughly 630 Floridians died each year from melanoma, according to the Florida Cancer Data System. Nationally, the number of deaths is expected to increase by 4.4%, according to the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Ralph Massullo, a dermatologist and a Republican Representative, proposed this bill so patients could receive screenings without having a co-pay.

He says he treats an increasing number of patients with skin cancers. He told the Sun Sentinel that removing barriers to screenings — such as co-pays and cost sharing — could save lives.

“Skin cancer is one of the easier cancers to cure if caught early,” Massullo said, “If caught late, particularly with melanoma, it can expensive to treat, and deadly.”

Dr. Sima Jain, president of the Florida Academy of Dermatology, said since melanoma is visible, invasive testing isn’t needed to catch it early.

“When melanoma spreads, survival drops significantly, and the cost also increases exponentially,” she said. “It makes so much sense to focus on prevention because not only can we save lives but we can also contain costs.”

If detected early, there is a 99% five year survival rate, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Alexa Herrera