A chance to save lives

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

Regardless of the promise of government of, by and for the people, the truth is that government and the people often are in conflict over issues big and small. Generally, we the people don't want a dime more government than the minimum necessary to maintain whatever we agree - for the moment - constitutes government's responsibilities. We the people rail against government waste and excoriate members of Congress who practice pork-barrel spending - unless that spending brings an infusion of other people's money into our backyard.

Thus, even the most conservative advocates of lean, limited government embrace the economic development made possible when our congressional delegation brings home a project funded by all the nation's taxpayers, of whom Alaskans represent less than one-half of 1 percent.

By even the most conservative standards, it makes good business sense to release some state dollars if the federal government will respond with a equal match. When the match is 2-to-1, 3-to-1 or better, well, that's just found money.

That's why it's been so hard to understand from a fiscal standpoint why the Legislature has been so slow to consider, much less pass, bills that will pay for breast and cervical cancer treatment for some women who lack insurance.

Senate Bill 38 would take advantage of a change in federal law that lets states provide treatment through Medicaid for women whose breast or cervical cancer is detected through a federally-funded screening program for low-income women.

The state estimates it would treat about 42 women a year if the bill passes, using a $413,000 federal grant, which requires a state match of $175,000.

SB 38 and the federal match represent a way for government to help those financially less fortunate and whose lives depend on receiving treatment for a disease they cannot defeat without help.

The bill recently received the blessing of U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, a Republican who acknowledged that his home state has the second highest rate of breast cancer in the nation.

"With such an epidemic in our state, I would hate for Alaska to stand out as one of the few states that fail to provide this life-or-death benefit," Murkowski wrote.

So would we.

The Legislature should pass the bill and help save the lives of Alaska women.

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