Bill will help motivate low-income women in Northwest Colorado to continue getting cancer screenings

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— A bill just approved by the Colorado Legislature should help to motivate hundreds of low income women in Northwest Colorado to keep getting screened for breast and cervical cancer.

House Bill 1045 will reauthorize and expand the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program through 2019.

Gisela Garrison, clinic director with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said without this expansion, some women without health insurance would likely forgo cancer screenings.

“I have worked this program before and I've heard individual women say, 'Why should I even find out because if I have cancer, I will not have the money to treat it. I better not even find out,'” Garrison said. “As a primary provider of the (screenings), it is very important that we can promise to these women if we should diagnose you with cancer, you will almost automatically be enrolled in Medicaid so your cancer treatment will be financially covered and secured.”

She called the funding for the breast and cervical cancer treatment program “a humungous selling point for the screenings.”

The Medicaid program pays for the treatment of these cancers in uninsured or underinsured women ages 40 to 64 who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

For a family of two, that would mean an income of less than $3,277 per month.

The cancer treatment program is funded by a combination of state and federal funds.

The approved bill also will make it so that women can qualify for treatment regardless of where they get their diagnosis.

Women who meet the age and income requirements in Colorado are screened at Women's Wellness Connection sites.

According to a news release from the American Cancer Society, even with this new health care law, gaps will remain for women who are uninsured or underinsured. It is estimated that more than 76,125 Colorado women will continue to lack access to cervical cancer screenings, and 31,714 women will lack access to breast cancer screenings in 2014.

"This program will continue to play a vital role in providing life-saving treatment to those in need throughout the state," R.J. Ours, Colorado government relations director for ACS CAN, said in the release.

Garrison said in the last fiscal year, local Women's Wellness Connection providers that include the VNA screened 380 women for breast and cervical cancer in Routt County, and 228 in Moffat County.

A fiscal note on the house bill estimates that in the fiscal year of 2014, the state is anticipating treating 433 women in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program.

“It really affects our daily work,” Garrison said about the program. “We can tell these women if something happens, we'll help you get the funding. It's a good message to be able to give.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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