Senate Passes Bill That Aims To Revive State Breast Cancer Program
On Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill (AB 1640) -- by Assembly members Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) -- that would reverse significant cuts to the Every Woman Counts program, which provides no-cost mammogram and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women, HealthyCal reports.
The bill also passed the Assembly unanimously. It is not known whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will sign the measure.
The program provides annual screenings to more than 350,000 low-income residents who are uninsured or underinsured.
In December 2009, the Schwarzenegger administration raised the minimum eligibility age for the program from 40 to 50 and stopped new admissions altogether. In its decision, the administration cited declining revenue from state tobacco taxes, which fund the program.
The enrollment freeze was scheduled to end at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, but it has been extended because the state does not have a budget plan in place.
AB 1640 would lower the eligibility age to 40 once Every Woman Counts is re-opened to new applicants. In addition, the bill would:
- Strengthen regulation ofÂ the program by mandating that it notify the Legislature and contractors of policy changes 90 days in advance; and
- Require the California Department of Public Health to make annual reports on the program to the Legislature (Baier, HealthyCal, 8/27).
Fees for Negative Tests
In related news, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has recommended eliminating case management fees in the EWC program for patients whose mammograms were negative for breast cancer, HealthyCal reports.
Such tests cost the state $12 million annually.
The $50 case management fee covers the costs of follow-up care after a breast cancer screening, including:
- Phone calls;
- Referrals for abnormal findings; and
- Collecting data on the program's participants.
According to a May review of EWC conducted by the Department of Finance, the fee was increasing faster than clinical costs of mammograms. Case management costs have risen by 38% since 2004, while the cost of providing mammograms has increased by 18%.
LAO recommends eliminating any fees for case management of normal screenings because they require only notifying patients of the test results. However, DPH opposes eliminating the case management fee and has instead recommended a tiered payment system that would lower the fee to $10 for normal mammograms. The decrease would reduce program spending by an estimated $9.8 million annually (Baier, HealthyCal, 8/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.