Advocates rally for breast cancer screening program

Administration urges women to lobby Legislature for funds

Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2005

Advocates rallied at the Capitol Wednesday for funding breast and cervical cancer prevention for women without insurance.

Gov. Frank Murkowski requested $1.8 million from the Legislature this year to help cover reduced federal funding for the cancer screening programs.

But the Senate Finance Committee last week cut $500,000 from the governor's request. At a noon rally on the Capitol steps, Murkowski and advocates wore pink T-shirts that read "Save the lives of Alaska women."

There was no specific mention of the cut at the rally, but Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Joel Gilbertson encouraged advocates to lobby their legislators.

Gilbertson said heart disease is the top killer of women in 49 states. In Alaska, it is cancer, he said.

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"These cancers can be treated by one thing and that's early detection," Murkowski told the crowd of about 50 people.

Alaska's Breast and Cervical Cancer Health Check program screens low-income women, ages 18 to 64, who are uninsured or underinsured. Single women with an income of less than $29,075 a year are eligible. The eligibility threshold is $39,025 for a family of two, $48,975 for a family of three and $58,925 for a family of four.

The program offers breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests for women age 18 to 64 and mammograms for women age 50 to 64.

The state Division of Public Health has said the $500,000 cut could force the division to raise the eligibility age to women age 40 to 64, cutting out about half of those eligible for the program.

The state Department of Health and Social Services estimates the $1.8 million would increase the number of women served by about 3,000 over the next two years. That would bring the total number to about 9,200.

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