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New law requires health insurers to cover ovarian cancer screenings for at-risk Delawareans

Dwain and Karen Johnson speak on House Bill 15, named after their late daughter Faith Deanna Johnson, on Thursday on the Senate Floor.
Sarah Petrowich
Delaware Public Media
Dwain and Karen Johnson speak on House Bill 15, named after their late daughter Faith Deanna Johnson, on Thursday on the Senate Floor.

Starting in 2025, Delaware will require health insurers to cover screenings for those at risk of ovarian cancer.

The bill known as “The Faith Deanna Johnson Act” passed with unanimous support in the General Assembly, named in honor of a 26-year-old Delawarean who lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

The new law provides better access to detection and intervention services early on for those with a familial history of certain types of cancer or those with a personal medical history that puts them at a greater risk for ovarian cancer.

One of the bill’s prime sponsors State Sen. Nicole Poore (D-New Castle) explains there are currently no reliable routine screenings for ovarian cancer as there are with other cancers, and physical symptoms typically do not occur at an early stage.

“Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, especially in younger women who are not typically considered at risk. We are building the infrastructure to protect women from this disease," Poore said.

Language in the act also expands the type of tests and screenings to be covered under insurance, including tumor marker tests, ultrasounds and examinations.

Faith’s parents, Dwain and Karen Johnson, were both present in the Senate chamber when the bill passed, and Karen spoke on Faith’s race and young age factoring into her several early misdiagnoses.

“There are sheer inequities contributing to the late diagnosis. Faith checked too many of those boxes that allowed her journey and symptoms to be ignored," she said.

Research shows that African-American women with ovarian cancer do not survive as long as non Hispanic White women with ovarian cancer as a result of access to care and gaps in health insurance coverage.

The bill's other prime sponsor Speaker of the House Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) said in a statement the new bill aims to address these discrepancies.

“We often hear that early detection can save lives, but we’ve gone a step beyond acknowledging this fact and have taken concrete steps to ensure that people have access to the preventative services needed to detect and treat cancer in its earliest stages,” Longhurst said.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.