Board of Health looks for more funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings

Friday, November 5th 2004, 6:36 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state Board of Health approved payment guidelines for breast and cervical cancer treatment for low-income women and agreed to ask the Legislature for more money to expand screening programs.

The state will provide free services to women who don't have health insurance, potentially saving thousands of lives, said board member Dr. Gordon Deckert.

``This is saving lives and if it (cancer) is prevented, it is saving money,'' he said Thursday.

Health officials said the program that starts Jan. 1 will serve about 35,000 Oklahoma women who have abnormal breast and/or cervical screenings and are in need of treatment.

In April, the Legislature approved a program that will generate at least $10 million in federal and state matching funds for breast and cervical cancer treatments.

The state will pay at least $2.5 million, making it eligible for another $7.5 million in Medicaid and Medicare money. Oklahoma was the only state in the nation that was not receiving matching funds for the screening program that was established in 2000, Deckert said.

The program will serve women ages 19 to 64, who make no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, with symptoms or diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer.

Health officials also will ask legislators for an additional $100,000 next year to boost mammography and pap smear screening in the state so cancer can be detected earlier in more women.

``If the goal of this is to get women in treatment, then the first step is to get them screened,'' said Lynne White, a lobbyist with the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

Now, the state is only able to provide screening to about 7,000, or 10 percent, of indigent women who need it.

Up to 30,000 women would qualify for free screening if the program was expanded, said Adeline Yerkes, chief of chronic disease services for the Health Department.

Oklahoma will have 3,000 new reported cases of breast cancer in 2004, according to the state Health Department.