The Jindal administration’s budget proposal puts the lives of thousands of Louisiana women at risk as it strips state funding for a breast and cervical cancer screening program, officials of two cancer-fighting groups wrote legislators.
Gone from the budget for the fiscal year that opens July 1 is $700,000 in state funding for the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program. The money is used to match $1.7 million in federal funds.
More than 13,500 women rely on the program for cancer screenings annually, said Andrew Muhl, government relations director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
The program provides no-cost breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income, uninsured and underserved women ages 40 to 64.
“More than just money would be lost; lives would be at stake” unless the state dollars are reinstated, Muhl and Angela Miller, interim director of the Susan G. Komen Baton Rouge affiliate, wrote House Appropriations Committee members.
The appropriations panel is holding hearings on the Jindal administration’s proposed $24.7 billion state spending plan which will be acted upon during the legislative session which opens Monday.
Late Friday, Michael DiResto, spokesman for the state Division of Administration, said the breast and cervical cancer program in the state Department of Health and Hospitals budget was not cut and those services are still available through the Medicaid program.
But, DiResto said, “We will work with the Legislature and LSU to restore funding to continue this critical service.”
Muhl and Miller pointed to the critical nature of the LSU-administered program. “It saves lives,” they said.
“Without the LBCHP thousands of women will be at risk for breast and cervical cancers. What will they do without this program. We urge you to put yourself in the shoes of these women ...” Muhl and Miller wrote.
The funding omission already has attracted the attention of House Appropriations Committee member state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.
Moreno said the program identifies cancer in its early stages. She said reinstatement of the funding is “not only the right thing to do” for the life of the women but avoids higher state expenses for medical care for those in advanced stages of the disease.
The program has been run through the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Participants include the LSU hospitals, Woman’s Hospital, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Research Center among others, Muhl said.
An estimated 87,000 women who — despite being eligible for the program — aren’t currently served because of budget constraints, Muhl and Miller told the appropriations panel. The cut in funding comes at a time when Louisiana has the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.