Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time to Fix Every Woman Counts

As reported on this blog, the governor’s first act in 2010 was cutting 100,000 low-income women off from accessing life-saving mammograms provided through the Every Woman Counts program.

I’ve been pushing back to get answers from the administration ever since. I finally got them, but not from the Department of Public Health which oversees Every Woman Counts.

The long awaited information came from reports just released by the California State Auditor and the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Both uncovered what I have long suspected - Every Woman Counts has been mismanaged at the cost of women's health.

Consider these findings about the Department of Public Health:
• While cutting services in Every Woman Counts, it continued to spend money on consulting contracts; these funds could have been used to provide mammograms to an additional 41,500 women;
• For 16 years, the Department of Public Health failed to develop regulations to allow transparency and public oversight of Every Woman Counts; and
• It has failed to provide the Legislature with annual estimates of the number of women it expects to serve through the program even while it provided this information to the federal government to secure federal funds.

While the news about these reports is not positive, the need to fix this program is great. Early detection of breast cancer through mammograms is a key to surviving the disease. When breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year relative survival rate is 98%. In addition, studies show that breast cancer treatment costs can more than double if cancer goes undetected and spreads. Costs for treatment can go from about $21,000 to over $52,000.

This is why we must reverse the governor’s cuts to Every Woman Counts through this year’s budget. But we can’t just throw money at this broken program without fixing it. That is why I am working with breast cancer advocates and others on legislation – AB 1640 – this year. Let’s get past the lip service and make every woman count!