Does Medicare Cover 3D Mammograms?

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Russell Noga
by Russell Noga | Updated February 7th, 2024

Does Medicare cover 3D mammograms? Yes, Medicare does cover 3D mammograms, ensuring access to this advanced screening technology for early breast cancer detection. In the following sections, we’ll navigate through the intricacies of this coverage, delineate the difference between screening and diagnostic mammograms, and outline any potential costs involved.


Key Takeaways

  • Medicare has covered 3D mammograms since 2015, providing one annual screening mammogram without a deductible or copayment if the doctor accepts Medicare assignment.
  • 3D mammography, which offers advantages in detecting breast cancer in dense breast tissue and reducing false positives, falls under different coverage rules in Medicare between routine screening and diagnostic uses.
  • Out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries can differ between screening and diagnostic mammograms, with diagnostic services incurring a 20% coinsurance after the Part B deductible, and supplemental plans are available to help cover additional costs.


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Understanding 3D Mammograms and Medicare Coverage

Understanding 3D Mammograms and Medicare Coverage


A 3D mammogram, or digital breast tomosynthesis, is a cutting-edge technique in breast cancer screening. Unlike traditional mammography, it captures a series of images from different angles, assembling them into a detailed 3D model of the breast. This enhanced visibility allows for the early detection of invasive breast cancer when it is most treatable.

Additionally, the 3D mammography synthesizes images into thin, 1-millimeter slices, improving the ability to detect breast cancer without the requirement of additional radiation when not paired with 2D imaging.

Medicare, acknowledging the significance of regular breast cancer screenings, offers coverage for such procedures, including medicare cover 3d mammograms for those who are eligible. In fact, Medicare covers mammograms, and since 2015, has covered 3D mammograms, funding one screening mammogram annually.


The Advantages of 3D Mammography

3D mammography comes with several distinct advantages over traditional 2D mammography. For starters, it’s specifically recommended for women with dense breasts. Dense breast tissue can make it harder to detect cancer using 2D mammograms, but the detailed images provided by 3D mammography make detection easier and more accurate.

Another significant advantage of 3D mammograms is a reduction in false positives and patient callbacks. Studies have shown that 3D mammography reduces the occurrence of false positives when compared to 2D mammography. Furthermore, the implementation of 3D mammography has led to a 15%-30% reduction in the rate of patient callbacks for additional imaging in contrast to 2D mammography. This means less stress and anxiety for patients and more efficient use of resources.

Medicare's Stance on 3D Mammogram Coverage

Medicare's Stance on 3D Mammogram Coverage


Medicare provides coverage for screening mammograms for women age 40 or older. It began covering 3D mammograms in 2015, reflecting the growing acceptance of this technology in the medical community. Furthermore, Part B covers the cost of screening mammograms every 12 months without charging a deductible or copayment if the doctor accepts Medicare assignment.

Bear in mind, Medicare’s coverage for mammograms isn’t universal; it can vary depending on the type of mammogram—screening or diagnostic—as well as the patient’s age and health status.

A comprehensive understanding of Medicare’s position on 3D mammogram coverage requires an examination of these differences and what they imply.


Diagnostic vs. Screening: Understanding the Difference

Screening and diagnostic mammograms serve different purposes and are covered differently by Medicare. A screening mammogram is a routine test used to look for any signs of breast cancer in women who don’t have any breast problems or symptoms. On the other hand, a diagnostic mammogram is used to check for breast cancer after a lump, breast pain, skin changes, or other symptoms have been detected.

Medicare covers both types of mammograms, but there are differences in coverage and potential out-of-pocket costs. For women aged 40 and over, Original Medicare covers a screening mammogram every 12 months. This significant advantage aids in the early detection and prevention of breast cancer. However, Medicare covers diagnostic mammograms more frequently if medically necessary, regardless of the patient’s age. For diagnostic mammograms, Medicare beneficiaries are responsible for 20% coinsurance after meeting the Part B deductible, which could amount to approximately $170.



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Out-of-Pocket Costs for 3D Mammograms Under Medicare

Out-of-Pocket Costs for 3D Mammograms Under Medicare


While Medicare covers screening mammograms in full, diagnostic mammograms come with some out-of-pocket costs. After meeting the annual Part B deductible, patients are responsible for paying 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for diagnostic mammograms.

However, even with coverage, 3D mammograms can cost more than traditional 2D mammograms. On average, a 3D mammogram is about $60 more than a 2D mammogram. Therefore, if a 3D mammogram is received as a diagnostic test rather than a screening, this may increase out-of-pocket costs when compared to traditional 2D mammography.

Beneficiaries need to be aware of these out-of-pocket costs to plan effectively. They should also be cognizant that the mammogram cost may hinge on whether their healthcare provider accepts the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for services.

High-Risk Patients and Enhanced Coverage

High-Risk Patients and Enhanced Coverage


For patients considered to be at high risk for breast cancer, Medicare offers enhanced coverage for 3D mammograms. This includes individuals with a family history of breast cancer or other documented risk factors.

Under Medicare, high-risk individuals can receive 3D mammogram screenings more frequently—sometimes annually—compared to average-risk individuals. However, to be eligible for this enhanced coverage, there must be documentation of risk factors such as a genetic predisposition or personal history of breast cancer.

Additional Insurance Options for Mammogram Coverage

Additional Insurance Options for Mammogram Coverage


While Medicare provides substantial coverage for 3D mammograms, there may still be costs that beneficiaries need to cover out-of-pocket. Thankfully, there are additional insurance options that can help offset these costs.

Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans can help medicare cover mammograms by taking care of some or all of the out-of-pocket costs that are not fully covered by Medicare. This can include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Another option is Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C. These plans must cover at least the same mammogram benefits as Original Medicare and may also offer additional benefits, which may affect the cost-sharing for diagnostic services. However, if a mammogram is considered diagnostic rather than preventive, a person with Medicare Advantage may have to pay the cost outlined by their plan, which is typically a fixed copayment.

How to Ensure Your 3D Mammogram is Covered

To guarantee Medicare coverage for a 3D mammogram, one must verify that the procedure is accurately coded as a routine screening, not diagnostic. Understanding if the mammogram is diagnostic or routine is critical to best understand potential costs covered by Medicare.

Consultations with a licensed insurance agent or a healthcare provider are necessary to comprehend the specifics of Medicare plan coverage for 3D mammograms. By doing this, you can avoid unexpected costs and ensure your mammogram is covered.

Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) plays a significant role in influencing Medicare’s coverage decisions for preventive services. Medicare is authorized to cover services that the USPSTF rates as grade A or B.

For example, the USPSTF recommends biennial screening mammography for women aged 50 to 74 with a grade B recommendation, as a way to detect breast cancer early. For women aged 40 to 49, the beginning of screening mammography, including the baseline mammogram, should be an individual decision, based on personal values and potential benefits and harms, receiving a grade C recommendation.

The USPSTF emphasizes a patient-centered approach to healthcare, suggesting that clinical decisions should be individualized by considering more than just clinical evidence.

Age Considerations for Mammogram Coverage

One of the key factors that can affect Medicare’s coverage of mammogram services is age. Medicare does not specify an upper age limit for coverage of screening mammograms. Women aged 40 and over are covered for an annual screening mammogram under Medicare.

Note that Medicare’s coverage includes annual screening mammograms for women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even older. However, the USPSTF recognizes that there is insufficient evidence to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening mammography in women aged 75 and older.


In conclusion, Medicare provides substantial coverage for 3D mammograms, a crucial tool in the early detection of breast cancer. However, it’s important to note that coverage can vary based on factors such as the type of mammogram (screening or diagnostic), the patient’s risk status, and age.

Understanding these factors can help beneficiaries navigate the Medicare system and ensure that they receive the necessary care with minimal out-of-pocket costs. It’s recommended that beneficiaries consult with healthcare providers or insurance agents to fully understand the specifics of their Medicare coverage for 3D mammograms.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is the 3D mammogram covered by Medicare?

No, Medicare will cover a 3D mammogram only if it’s a yearly, routine screening, not for diagnostic purposes. Other medical insurance programs also tend to follow this coverage policy due to the efficiency of 2D mammograms.


Are 3D mammograms covered as preventive?

Yes, 3D mammograms are generally covered as preventive by most insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.


At what age does Medicare stop paying for mammograms?

Medicare does not have a specific cut-off age for mammogram coverage. Part B will continue to pay for annual screening and diagnostic mammograms as long as they are deemed medically necessary.


How much does a mammogram cost?

A screening mammogram without insurance can cost around $150, while a diagnostic mammogram may be more expensive, depending on the tests ordered. With insurance, the cost can vary based on your specific health plan and the type of imaging needed.


Speak to the Professionals about Medigap Plans and Original Medicare

If you find understanding the benefits involved with Original Medicare and Medigap Plans challenging, you’re not alone. Whether it’s a Medigap plan, or you want to know more about Medicare coverage for 3D Mammograms, we can help. Call our team at 1-888-891-0229 for a free consultation or complete the contact form on this site, and an expert will call you back at a convenient time.

We have decades of experience advising our clients on the complexities of Medicare and Medigap plans, the benefits, cost and deductibles. We’ll ensure you get the best rate in your state and advice you can trust.

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