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Breast cancer screening program for poor women to stop accepting new patients

A cigarette tax-funded program that pays for breast cancer screenings for low-income women will stop accepting new patients Jan. 1, public health officials said this week. Officials said the decision came as a result of “unprecedented fiscal challenges” to the program which they hope to reopen by summertime.

If “Every Woman Counts” reopens July 2 as planned, its scope will be scaled back significantly. Although women ages 50 and older will still be eligible, women ages 40-49 will no longer be screened. State officials acknowledged that women ages 40 to 49 who had been served by the program will no longer have access to state-funded screening.

Officials said demand has grown for the free screening even as the program's main source of revenue, a tobacco tax, has dwindled. Women already enrolled in the program will continue to be eligible for annual screenings, officials said.

But Dr. Mark Horton, the state health officer, said in a statement that short-term increases in state funding for the program “have not been enough to keep pace with the growing demand for and cost of providing breast cancer screening services to women in this program.”

Officials said the age requirement was tightened because, according to the California Department of Public Health, most breast cancer cases occur in women older than 50.
The service covered breast cancer screening tests for women that were not covered by other government medical programs, such as Medi-Cal; had medical insurance that failed to cover such screenings; had a high insurance deductible or copayment; or were low-income.

Debora Wright, president of Inner Images, a mobile mammography service based in Los Angeles County who relies heavily on the state program, called the state’s changes to the program “cruel.”

“We’re absolutely horrified,” Wright said, who added  that aggressive breast cancer can occur in women younger than 50. “I don’t think our business can survive it.”

Wright said three out of four of her clients are first-time screeners or between the ages of 40 and 49.

The Department of Public Health said women seeking low-cost or free breast cancer screenings can contact their local health department or American Cancer Society.

The state’s announcement comes a few weeks after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women younger than 50 do not need regular mammograms, concluding that the risk of breast cancer is very low in women ages 40 to 50. The task force concluded that the risk of a false breast cancer diagnosis and complications from biopsies and other invasive procedures is too high for the procedure to be used routinely.

Though screening saves lives, recent studies have made it clear that it also leads to biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, including some deaths, that otherwise would not have occurred.

Cancer doctors, however, have attacked those guidelines, as have other groups, including the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which said they would not change their guidelines and would continue to urge women to undergo the tests.

Dr. Willie Goffney, a surgical cancer doctor who serves on the board of directors for the California division of the American Cancer Society, said he was disappointed by the state's decision to put the free screening program on hiatus and then limit who can enroll.

“We feel we are moving in the wrong direction. We know that screening for breast cancer and having access to that screening saves lives,” Goffney said. “So to take those resources from people who need that access means more people will fall through the cracks, and will lead to more deaths from breast cancer.”

--Rong-Gong Lin II
 
Comments () | Archives (6)

Horrifying. When will our society value women's healthcare??

Cruel and WRONG! That task force recommendation was probably influenced by the insurance giants somehow.

Life throws curves at everyone and with to few people paying any income tax in this State it's a wonder we have any free programs left. Who should take the hit, schools, kids, child medical care, seniors, home health services & workers, just who. Wake up folks the good life in California is gone for the foreseeable future. It's only going to get worse and worse and worse. The comment by Debra Wright, Inner Images, that her business may not survive is irrevelant to the conversation. This isn't about her business success at the state trough, but about peoples lives. There will be other providers you just need to be able to pay.

This information is incorrect. I had breast cancer in my 40's, my daughter was in her 40's and my cousin was in her 40's. Many, many more women I know or someone else knows were in their 40's. The only way to have a chance with breast is early detection. The state should find the money for these women.

Pay attention fellow Americans, this is an excellent example of government run programs. "What belongs to no one is wasted by everyone." I am ex-military, while serving overseas the medical clinics were inundated with individuals seeking medical services for EVERYTHING while throwing "common sense" out the window. The result, services had to be rationed. The perception that the services were FREE because they were government provided overwhelmed the clinics. Any service the government provides is PAID for by tax-payers, and not all tax payers for many get most if not all of what they pay in. Only a small percentage of tax payers ACTUALLY pay.

Death care is only for control over our lives. There's not one government agency that is run efficiently. Look at who is running our governement. People, including Obama, most of them haven't had a job or owned a business.
IT'S ALL ABOUT POWER!!!!

This country is bankrupt and politicians are still paying billions to fellow dems for their vote. I RESENT THIS.. My taxes go towards your pay and the billions ($300 million to Louisana, etc.) to get a vote. You still have ear marks, etc... all tax dollars paid into this corrupt system. Prediction is
by 2012 we will lose our triple A rating as a country...and you still insist on passing death care. Canada and other countries ration their care and people suffer and die. 6 months to get a MRI in Canada.

NEXT will be Cap and Trade...

This regrime reminds me of Hitler in Nazi Germany. Get rid of the disabled and elderly (that includes new borns, etc.)

Dems don't want this system for them or their families. They are the Royals
and we are the peons.

I don't live in CA (use to) but my tax dollar goes to Washington to pay your salary, perks and healthcare.

Number 1 is jobs...almost a year and all this crap is more spending, taxing, , regulations, expansion of government, giving funds to large companies, taking over banks, car business and now health care. Now you are discussing jobs.

Your priorities SUCK

God Bless America


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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