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CA Restores Mammogram Plan For The Poor

December 8, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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California last week reopened to women age 40 or older a chance to enroll in Every Woman Counts, a program that provides free mammograms for low-income women.

California’s budget crisis led the state to suspend new enrollments at the beginning of this year and restrict mammograms to women 50 or older. As we reported back in May, mammograms plunged much more than the state had expected—so much that some mammography clinics and mobile units closed.

“Our top priority is to provide breast cancer screening services to as many low-income California women as possible under the Every Woman Counts program,” Mark Horton, MD, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a department news release. “We are very pleased to be able to reopen the program to qualifying low-income women age 40 and older.”

The program was established by the federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990 and the state Breast Cancer Act of 1993. It has been funded mostly by state tobacco taxes. As smoking has declined, so has revenue for Every Woman Counts.

Daniel Weintrab of HealthyCal reported that state legislators pushed to restore the program to its previous coverage. The Legislature added $20 million to the program’s budget, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration agreed to stop paying doctors and clinics to track the cases of women who tested negative for cancer. That’s estimated to save $14 million.

“Early detection can save a life,” Dr. Horton said, “and I strongly encourage all eligible women to take advantage of this service.”

The state expects to provide services to more than 300,000 women during the current fiscal year. Every Woman Counts provides free pelvic exams and Pap tests for low-income women age 25 or older in addition to breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Information for both patients and providers can be found here.

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