By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Ohio women without insurance who have breast or cervical cancer soon will be eligible for extended Medicaid benefits to cover their treatment, the Bush administration said Thursday.
Ohio is the most recent state to take advantage of federal legislation that allows states to expand Medicaid to cover some cancer patients.
"With this change, women who had no health coverage can now get immediate access to lifesaving treatment through Medicaid," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said.
Women who qualify for the program will receive medical coverage for the duration of their cancer treatment. The state will be reimbursed 85 percent of the cost to provide coverage. Ohio's cost could be from $440,000 to $1 million a year in matching funds.
U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the ranking minority member on the health subcommittee that approved legislation for this program, had criticized Gov. Bob Taft for initially declining to participate in the program.
Taft said earlier this year that he could not commit to the program because of a state budget crunch, but his staff said he changed his mind after reading a newspaper column about the issue Brown said he's glad the state is becoming involved.
"This announcement is a victory for the women of Ohio and the breast cancer awareness advocates," he said. "State officials now must do everything possible to let women in these circumstances know that help is available."
U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette said he is "thrilled" Ohio is joining 40 other states extending the coverage.
"This decision can actually make a difference between life and death for uninsured Ohio women who are stricken with breast or cervical cancer," said LaTourette, R-Ohio.
To qualify for program, women have to be screened by the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program covers working women aged 40-65 who earn up to 200 percent of the poverty level and have no insurance.
Since 1990, CDC has performed more than 3 million screenings for 1.8 million women. Between March 1994 and August 2001, about 31,000 Ohio women were screened.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Women can schedule free or low-cost mammograms and Pap tests by calling the CDC at 888-842-6355.(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)