State May Opt Out of Federal Breast Cancer Treatment Program for Uninsured Women
Health advocates are concerned that California's uncertain economic status may dissuade Gov. Gray Davis (D) from participating in a state-federal program that allows uninsured women with breast cancer to receive treatment coverage through Medicaid, the Oakland Tribune reports. Last October, former President Clinton signed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, which authorizes states to extend Medicaid coverage to uninsured women for breast cancer treatment. Before the law was signed, only breast cancer screenings were covered. So far, 10 states have enrolled in the program. Last year, Davis "pledged" to enter the voluntary program -- in which the federal government pays 65% of the state's cost -- but he has yet to do so despite state Senate approval of a bill that would enroll California in the program and state Assembly approval of budget language "expanding Medicaid to cover breast cancer treatment." Moreover, California last year "contributed $20 million toward existing state [breast cancer] treatment programs," but health advocates say that this money "was budgeted with the expectation that California would join the program when it became available" and might "fall victim" to the state's "far-reaching" budget cuts.
According to Marj Plumb, a consultant with the Breast Cancer Task Force, $20 million would be enough to fund the state's participation in the program for a "few years." However, the "prospect of California jumping into a new program," even a popular one, "is looking increasingly uncertain," the Tribune reports. Davis spokesperson Hillary McLean said the administration is "analyzing the potential financial fallout" of the program. The "cooling economy" combined with the energy crisis has lawmakers considering ways to reduce the proposed $102 billion budget by at least $3 billion. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch, director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program, said, "Everything is on the chopping block right now. Whether [the $20 million] will stay in (the budget) or not, I don't know" (Freidman, Oakland Tribune, 6/15).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.