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News Release

Labor Department Seeks Public Comments on Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

The U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services are seeking public comments on coverage and notice requirements under the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.

The request for information (RFI), published in the May 28 Federal Register, seeks information in several areas needed by the two departments. The Act amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) -- which is administered by the Labor Department -- and the Public Health Service Act administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Act, signed into law on Oct. 21, 1998, provides protections for mastectomy patients who elect breast reconstruction. Under the Act, group health plans, insurance companies, and health maintenance organizations offering coverage for a mastectomy must also cover reconstructive surgery in connection with a mastectomy. Coverage for breast reconstruction -- in a manner determined in consultation with the attending physician and the patient -- must include:

  • reconstruction of the breast on which the mastectomy has been performed;

  • surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance; and

  • prostheses and physical complications at all stages of mastectomy, including lymphedema.

The law also sets standards on annual deductibles and coinsurance and prohibits certain compensation arrangements. In addition, group health plans and health insurance issuers are required to notify participants of their rights under the law upon enrollment and each year thereafter.

Written comments should be provided to the departments on or before June 28th. The comments should be addressed to the Health Care Task Force, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, Room N-5677, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210, ATTN: WHCRA Solicitation of Comments. Written comments may also be sent by Internet to the following address:

For additional information about the coverage and notice requirements of the Act, see a Fact Sheet and a series of commonly asked questions and answers at PWBA's website at Copies of the request for information are available from the Public Disclosure Room, N-5638 at the above address, telephone (202) 219-8771, or at PWBA's website address above under "What's New in PWBA."

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7775.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Contact Name:Gloria Della
Phone Number: 202.219.8921

Employee Benefits Security Administration
June 1, 1999
Release Number
USDL: 99-22