Tight budget leaves no money for new cancer program

Tuesday, June 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A tight budget at the state's Medicaid agency in the coming fiscal year won't leave enough money to fund a new program for uninsured patients who have breast cancer and cervical cancer.

``Unfortunately, it's just a victim like a lot of other projects,'' said Nico Gomez, spokesman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The state Board of Health recently established eligibility criteria for uninsured women in need of treatment for breast cancer or cervical cancer treatment. As part of the program, the Health Department would determine eligibility to save time in getting women into treatment, said Adeline Yerkes, the department's chief of Chronic Disease Services.

Yerkes said the hoped-for Jan. 1 implementation date hinges on the ability of the state Medicaid program to fund the measure. But Gomez said the program's fate has already been sealed.

He said the OHCA is already considering various program cuts and reductions when it meets Thursday. The board is expected to vote to permanently reduce by 15 percent co-insurance and deductible provider payments for people enrolled in both the Medicaid and Medicare systems.

Funding for new programs is simply not available, he said.

``It's going to be very difficult to expand new programs to new populations that we don't currently serve,'' Gomez said.

He said the cancer treatment program is estimated to cost about $1.1 million in state dollars. The total program cost, including federal matching funds, is about $5.5 million.

He said the Health Care Authority estimates about 4,000 potential recipients would benefit from the program in a year's time. Potential recipients are ineligible for Medicaid because their income may not be low enough to meet the low-income criteria for the health care program.

But most of the women targeted for the cancer treatment program have no health insurance or are underinsured and cannot afford cancer treatment, he said.