Breast cancer screening program reopens

December 1, 2010

A state program that screens low-income women for breast cancer has reopened this week, 11 months after the Schwarzenegger Administration suspended new admissions to save money.

As of Wednesday the Every Woman Counts program is accepting new applications for women age 40 and over who want to have a mammogram screening for cancer.

“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,” Dr. Mark Horton, director of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “We are very pleased to be able to reopen the program to qualifying low-income women age 40 and older. Early detection can save a life, and I strongly encourage all eligible women to take advantage of this service.”

The program was established by the federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990 and the state Breast Cancer Act of 1993.

The program is funded mostly by state tobacco tax revenue, and as fewer people smoke, that revenue has been declining. Faced with dwindling funds, the administration on Jan. 1 suspended new enrollment and announced plans to restrict mammograms under the program to women age 50 and over.

But state lawmakers objected to the changes, and as part of the budget negotiations, the program was restored to its former status. The administration agreed to changes that will save an estimated $14 million annually by ending payments to doctors and clinics to track the cases of women who tested negative for cancer. In addition, the Legislature added $20 million to the program’s budget.

The state expects to screen more than 300,000 women during the current fiscal year.

Women can call the program’s toll free number to determine if they are eligible (800) 511-2300.

–Daniel Weintraub

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