SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Assemblymembers Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, health organizations, breast cancer survivors and advocates held a press conference today to express their outrage at the California Department of Public Healthâ€™s new directive to shut the doors for breast cancer screening services for 1.2 million low-income and uninsured.
Said Assemblymember Pedro Nava, author of AB 359 signed by the Governor earlier this year which increased access to digital mammography for women in California under the Every Women Counts program, â€œThis is a certain death sentence for many women. I find it unconscionable that state officials would arbitrarily prevent access to women under the age of 50 and cease enrolling those who are eligible. Statistics show that early screening and detection for all women saves lives and money. â€
Every Women Counts (EWC) is a joint program by the state Department of Public Health and the Federal Center for Disease Control and Preventionâ€™s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program that provides clinical breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams and Pap tests to Californiaâ€™s underserved women over the age of 40. In California more than 1.2 million women are eligible for the program.
New guidelines recently issued by the Department will exclude, beginning on January 1, 2010, women between the ages of 40 and 49 for mammograms and will stop enrolling new women into the program altogether until July 1, 2010, citing budgetary concerns.
â€œWe face historic budget challenges with painful options,â€ said Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. â€œBut these cuts kill women. Iâ€™m stunned by the governorâ€™s lack of leadership. We can and must do better.â€
Said Assemblymember Lori SaldaÃ±a (D-San Diego), Chair of the Womenâ€™s Legislative Caucus,â€œCalifornia must support access to health care for women regardless of age or ability to pay.â€
â€œWe fully understand the tough economic situation our elected leaders face and the difficult choices they must make. Yet balancing the budget on the backs of our stateâ€™s neediest women is a mistake. We should not deny women, who have very few options and limited resources, access to screening and treatment services that may save their life,â€ said Donna R. Sanderson, Executive Director, Sacramento Affiliate, California Collaborative of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Said American Cancer Society volunteer, breast cancer survivor, and nurse Ann Stoltz,â€œThe American Cancer Society strongly believes that screening saves lives and continues to recommend that women start regular screening through mammography starting at age 40. The Every Woman Counts program serves women who have a higher risk of cancer death. They need the access this program provides. This is a huge step backward.â€
Said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Esq., President and CEO of the California Primary Care Association, â€œClinics play a vital role in serving the individuals enrolled in the Every Woman Counts program. An attempt will be made to screen as many women under 50 as possible before the January 1, 2010 deadline. This program saves lives and it must be preserved.â€