House approves breast and cervical cancer bill

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill extending Medicaid coverage to eligible women for breast and cervical cancer treatment passed unanimously Friday in the House.

But House lawmakers added an amendment to ensure the program moves forward regardless of whether the federal government allows Alaska to begin charging women more for treatments.

The amendment could create a stand-off with some in the Senate who favor imposing higher cost-sharing, and possibly premiums, to some recipients.

The Senate approved the bill earlier to extend indefinitely the program which was scheduled to end in June.

But Senate Bill 78 also included a provision to allow the state Department of Health and Social Services to charge additional cost-sharing to recipients if federal law changes.

Under the current cost-sharing provisions, women receiving treatment could pay up to $200 for a hospital stay or up to 5 percent of outpatient charges.

The House approved an amendment Friday to make clear that those cost sharing provisions would not take effect unless federal law changes.

Supporters in the House contend federal Medicaid rules don't allow Alaska to target higher cost-sharing provisions to women under this program.

A federally funded breast and cervical cancer screening program for uninsured and underinsured women began in 1995. Women receive screening through the Alaska Breast and Cervical Health Check program.

The federal government expanded Medicaid to cover treatment for women three years ago and Alaska joined the program in 2001. That program was set to expire in June.

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 $27,700 per year and be eligible.

That program has treated 94 women at a cost of $1.1 million -- 30 percent of the cost was paid for by the state -- and was set to expire in June.

The House approved the measure 38-0. Reps. Carl Moses, D-Unalaska, and Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, were absent. The measure now goes to the Senate to consider the changes.

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