Senate committee approves breast cancer bill

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill extending Medicaid coverage to eligible women for breast and cervical cancer treatment passed a Senate committee on Wednesday.

The Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee approved a bill to extend the program indefinitely. It was set to expire June 30, 2003.

Senate Bill 78 also extends a cost-sharing provision to offset the costs to the state for such treatment. Under the current cost-sharing, women receiving treatment could pay up to $200 for a hospital stay or up to 5 percent of outpatient charges.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, who was opposed to extending the program last year.

About 22 women received Medicaid funding for breast cancer treatment programs last year, along with nine diagnosed with cervical cancer and 13 women with pre-cancerous cervical conditions, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. The program cost Medicaid $584,364 last year and the state's portion was $181,332.

State health officials expect the numbers to rise to about $970,000 in the next fiscal year as both Medicaid costs grow and more women take advantage of the program.

The state program was made possible by a change in federal law to let states provide Medicaid to eligible women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through a federally funded screening program.

Women could receive Medicaid-funded treatment if their income is less than 250 percent of the poverty level and they are not covered by insurance. A single woman could make up to $23,000 per year and be eligible, said Kevin Henderson, head of the state Division of Medical Assistance.

Sens. Green; Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River; and Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks recommended the bill pass. Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, recommended it be amended and Sen. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, gave no recommendation.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

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