Northwest NEWS

Nember 6, 2000


Guest Editoral

by Julie Davidson Public Policy Chair
   Komen Puget Sound Affiliate Board
   The news recently is rife with the stories about the signing of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act. This law is designed to ensure that women diagnosed with breast cancer have access to timely and appropriate treatment - a laudable goal. The current focus, however, is how and where this bill was signed into law. While this new law should and will be celebrated, we're not quite there yet.
   The Komen Puget Sound Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation firmly believes that no woman diagnosed with the disease should be denied timely and appropriate treatment.
   And this new law is an important first step in calling our attention to those who may not receive treatment and the need to close that gap. Without state action, however, this law will fall short of its intended goal.
   The law establishes an optional State Medicaid benefit for coverage of certain women who were screened and diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer under Title XV of the Public Health Services Act's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP).
   To be eligible, women would have to satisfy the income and resource eligibility requirements established under NBCCEDP: be under age 65; have been diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer under the program; and not otherwise have health insurance coverage. To make this law really work for women, we must not forget that it is optional. Thus, states may or may not choose to participate. It requires that each state legislature first convene to determine if it wishes to accept this optional benefit.
   Second, under this new law, a state must appropriate funds to qualify for federal matching dollars. Many states are struggling now to fund Medicaid. We must ensure that even the poorest of states can afford to set this law in motion.
   Access to treatment for those women diagnosed with breast cancer also is limited by low program participation. Only 12-15 percent of women eligible for the NBCCEDP are actually screened due to limited government funding. And because of the state-directed nature of this program, uniform coverage is only assured for women between the ages of 50 and 64. One hundred fourteen affiliates in 45 states, including the Komen Puget Sound Affiliate, comprise the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
   This powerful grassroots organization stands ready to tackle the critical challenge that lies ahead to ensure that execution of this law will yield the greatest results for all women. We issue a call to action to the Washington State Legislature to ensure that this law is successfully rolled out in Washington.
   We commend the efforts of the American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Coalition for championing this legislation.
   We applaud bi-partisan congressional and administrative leaders who made the bill become law.
   We look forward to toasting this new act, but we won't truly celebrate until all women diagnosed with breast cancer have access to prompt, high-quality care.