Let's keep breast- and cervical-cancer patients from taking the wrong door

2012-03-07T00:00:00Z Let's keep breast- and cervical-cancer patients from taking the wrong doorJaimie Leopold Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Bobbie Thayer did all the things we have taught women to do - maybe except choosing to walk through the wrong door.

Bobbie, from Peoria, noticed a change in her breasts and knew she needed to be checked out as soon as possible. This is exactly what Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society emphasize in our education to women and caregivers.

However, unknown to Bobbie, she sought a diagnosis at a provider that was not part of a program that, based on her financial situation, would have given her direct access to treatment after being diagnosed with cancer.

Every state has a Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. In Arizona, this program is run by the Arizona Department of Health Services through the Arizona Well Woman HealthCheck Program (WWHP).

To qualify for the breast and cervical cancer screening through WWHP, a woman must:

• Be age 40-64.

• Be uninsured or underinsured.

• Not qualify for Arizona's Medicaid program.

• Have an income not exceeding 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Fortunately, since 2001, these women can also receive treatment through Medicaid if they are diagnosed with cancer.

But in Arizona, that treatment has an additional criterion for eligibility. The only diagnosis that qualifies a cancer patient for treatment has to come from a WWHP contractor.

Bobbie met all of the other criteria but didn't qualify for treatment through Medicaid because she was not diagnosed by a WWHP contractor. She went through the wrong door.

Here at our local Komen Southern Arizona affiliate, volunteers and staff have heard many stories like Bobbie's. And just as we believe in, fight for and raise funds for health care for all women, we also believe that whether a woman receives treatment should not be determined by where she is diagnosed.

That's why the Arizona affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are supporting HB 2472.

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Reps. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, and Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, would eliminate the eligibility restriction based on location of diagnosis and help ensure there is no "wrong door" to walk through when it comes to breast- and cervical-cancer prevention and treatment.

A $1 million investment from the state general fund would treat the estimated 618 Arizona women who would qualify for the program annually and produce $4 million total after a federal match.

"Bobbie's Law," as this bill is being dubbed, is vital. In Southern Arizona, breast-cancer statistics are worrying. The five-year survival rate in this region for early-stage breast cancer is 89 percent - 10 percentage points below the national average.

In most cases, providers don't know to send uninsured women to a WWHP location. Added to that, the burden of funneling all these women through such few points of entry can mean they have to wait. And for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, that wait can not only raise her health-care costs, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Last week HB 2472 was passed unanimously at the House, and is now on its way to the state Senate. We ask that you add your support to HB 2472.

Contact your lawmakers

Tell your representatives in the Legislature your views.

Go to www.azhouse.gov or to www.azsenate.gov online. Call the Tucson legislative office at 398-6000 or call Phoenix toll-free at 1-800-352-8404.

Jaimie Leopold is executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southern Arizona. For more information, go to www.komensaz.org Bobbie Thayer received a Komen grant for treatment and lives in the Phoenix area.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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