By Sean Shacklett
Special to The Vindicator
Here are the facts:
If breast cancer is detected before it spreads beyond the breast, the 5-year relative survival rate is 98 percent. That number plummets to 23 percent once the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
While Ohio ranks 32nd in the nation in incidence of breast cancer, the state is fourth in the nation in breast cancer mortality.
The facts tell us the best tool we have in the fight against the disease is early detection. This is why Ohio’s four affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure support expansion of Ohio’s Medicaid program. As our state lawmakers decide on the question of expansion, it is important to know how expansion will impact the thousands of women in Ohio who lack breast health coverage and those who unfortunately may need breast cancer treatment.
There are 1.5 million Ohioans without health insurance. Within this population, there are thousands of women who delay or forego breast cancer screenings because they have no way to pay for the service. Many of these women will end up with late-stage cancers. The cost of their treatment can be five times more expensive than cancers caught earlier. This impacts every Ohioan, as those who have private insurance end up paying more to cover the uncompensated costs absorbed by hospitals, as well as public funds used to help cancer patients.
Ohio’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP) provides breast cancer screening and diagnostic services to many who do not initially qualify for Medicaid. Through the BCCP, when women are screened and diagnosed at a BCCP-affiliated clinic, they can qualify for Medicaid coverage for their treatment.
With the challenging economic times in recent years, the number of women in Ohio who are eligible for the BCCP has almost doubled to 250,000 since 2008. And despite the program’s critical importance to these underserved women, the state budget appropriation to the BCCP has been reduced by nearly 70 percent during the same period. In 2011 there was only enough funding to provide screenings for 13,000 women or just over 5 percent of the eligible population.
We recognize our legislative leaders face extremely difficult choices to deal with limited budgets. However these women won’t disappear just because funding is reduced — and neither will their cancers.
Looking toward the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Ohio has the opportunity to expand Medicaid to include hundreds of thousands of uninsured women. We believe that participating in the optional Medicaid expansion is good medicine for Ohio and a much needed resource that will help underserved Ohioans in need of important breast health services.
By choosing to expand Medicaid in Ohio, the state will receive more than $23.8 billion in federal funds over the next six years.
A recent study by the independent Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), with The Ohio State University, the Urban Institute and Regional Economic Models Inc., of the likely effects of Medicaid expansion on the Ohio taxpayer found that the costs to Ohioans were more than met by the savings realized.
If Ohio leaders say no to Medicaid expansion, these resources and support for life saving screenings they represent will go elsewhere. Not to other programs . . . to other states.
Sean Shacklett is executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Northeast Ohio Affiliate. The four Ohio affiliates of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure promote and support breast health education programs as well as mammography and screening services throughout Ohio.