Department of Defense approves DBT screening for TRICARE beneficiaries

The Department of Defense (DOD) has confirmed that service members and their families will now have insurance coverage for digital breast tomosynthesis screening (DBT).

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery made the announcement in a letter sent to U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). TRICARE beneficiaries will be covered for exams performed beginning on Jan. 1 of next year.

“I’m glad to see the Department of Defense step up and provide needed coverage for DBT screenings to our active-duty service members and others,” McSally said in a statement. “This commonsense change will benefit the many women who utilize Tricare.”

McSally, a veteran herself, has been leading the effort to secure DBT coverage for service members. Just last month, she introduced the “Better and Robust Screening Today Act,” along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to mandate DOD coverage for TRICARE members. The screening method, according to the Senator, is the most effective option available to detect breast cancer.

In his letter, McCaffery noted that under federal regulation TRICARE must adhere to United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for screening procedures which, at this time, do not include DBT for breast cancer screening. Therefore he could only approve provisional coverage, which can be extended for up to five years.

The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) released its own statement, Friday, Dec. 6, applauding McSally, while also echoing her belief that more work is ahead to extend screening coverage beyond the five-year provisional period.

“This is a major step forward, but more work remains to be done,” Dennis Durmis, chair of the MITA Board of Directors and Bayer's radiology head for the Americas region, said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting efforts with the Better and Robust Screening Today Act, which would mandate TRICARE screening coverage without prior authorization and formalize coverage equity for U.S. service women.”