Line-Item Veto Ends Waiting List for Program To Provide Prostate Cancer Treatment
A waiting list for treatment through the Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with Prostate Cancer will be eliminated after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday used the line-item veto option to cut $3 million in state funding for the program, the Sacramento Bee reports. About 100 men currently are on the waiting list (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 7/14).
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said that overhead accounts for 45% of the program's budget and that more money should be dedicated to patient care. Administration officials said that the 341 patients enrolled in the program will be able to continue receiving care but that 104 patients currently on the waiting list will not be enrolled in the program. Officials said men denied access to the program can receive care at county hospitals (California Healthline, 7/12).
In a Department of Health Services memo obtained by the Bee, officials said, "Without the program, men must use already overburdened county facilities or face no treatments at all. Men may die as a result." Most men in the program are low-income workers who are uninsured.
Ken Wagstaff, a retired health specialist who co-wrote the memo, in a December 2004 e-mail "made it clear that [DHS] did not support continuing IMPACT," the Bee reports.
In the memo, Wagstaff wrote that a transition provision "in the '05-'06 budget bill will do a lot to offset the current advocacy for more money in the new budget. This administration can point to its commitment to assure completion of treatment for all men enrolled, within available funds."
Ken August, a DHS spokesperson, said the state never authorized a waiting list for the program, adding, "Those in public health know the resources are limited, and they have to choose between worthwhile programs. We understand the decisions have real consequences for real people. Nonetheless, this is one of many tough choices."
According to the Bee, the end of the IMPACT program "highlights the differences in funding for various forms of cancer treatment" in the state. Generally, adults without young children are not eligible for Medi-Cal unless they have severe disabilities.
In 2000, lawmakers approved using Medi-Cal funds to treat breast and cervical cancer for women who otherwise would not be eligible for the program. The fiscal year 2006 state budget will increase funding for women's cancer screening by $2.5 million.
However, there is "no similar funding" for treatment of cancer affecting men, the Bee reports. Men must be "so disabled that they have not worked for a year and are not expected to be able to work in the future" to be eligible for Medi-Cal, according to the Bee (Sacramento Bee, 7/14).