Bill Would Make Program To Treat Uninsured Men With Prostate Cancer Permanent
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) has introduced a bill (SB 650) that would make the Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with Prostate Cancer program permanent and more difficult to eliminate, the Sacramento Bee reports. IMPACT began in 2001 as a pilot program to provide prostate cancer treatment to uninsured men with annual incomes below 200% of the poverty level.
The administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed eliminating the program for the past two years, citing budget constraints. Schwarzenegger administration officials have said the program should be cut because it relies on tobacco-tax funds, which have decreased because of reduced smoking rates. Officials have said they do not want to use general fund money for the program.
Ortiz has said that the state should fund the $6.5 million annual cost of the program.
The Department of Health Services earlier this year told IMPACT officials to stop enrolling new patients on Feb. 11. However, the state has continued to refer patients to the program, and about 30 men are on a new wait list, according to the Bee. In addition, treatment for some IMPACT beneficiaries has been suspended while funding for the program is debated.
Kevin Reilly, who oversees prevention programs for DHS, said, "I think from an effectiveness standpoint it doesn't help to start and stop the program, but from a funding standpoint we have to do the responsible thing." Reilly said the state would help the more than 300 men currently enrolled in IMPACT finish their treatment, possibly by referring them to local charities.
Ortiz said, "In the big scheme of things, it's not a lot of money, but it does illustrate very clearly the contradictions in how we ration health care in California." Ortiz added, "It's an example of government gone bad."
IMPACT administrator Laura Baybridge said patients are "sitting there dying of prostate cancer, we can't pay for their treatment, and they have nowhere to go" (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/6).