On October 21, 1998, the Federal Breast Reconstruction Law was passed. Since that time, insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of breast reconstruction after mastectomy, including:
(1) Reconstruction of the breast on which the mastectomy has been performed;*
(2) Surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance;*
(3) Prostheses and physical complications all stages of mastectomy.*
In 1985, less than 4% of women had breast reconstruction after mastectomy. In 2007 less than 30% of women underwent reconstruction. Although this is a 7-fold increase, it is still shockingly low. While some women choose not to have reconstruction, this is a very small proportion. The limiting factor is knowledge - women don't know that they can have their breast(s) rebuilt because (1) their surgeon doesn't tell them that they can; (2) they think their insurance company won't pay for it; (3) or there is limited access to plastic surgical expertise. We all have a responsibility to help bridge the gap of knowledge so that more women have access to educational resources and plastic surgeons who specialize in breast reconstruction.
(*adapted from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction/breast-reconstruction-resources/1998-federal-breast-reconstruction-law.html)