Komen Celebrates BIG Advocacy Win in Ohio

July 18, 2019 – As Governor Mike DeWine signed the biennial budget Wednesday, the four Ohio affiliates of Susan G. Komen celebrated a victory for access to breast health services after a long-fought advocacy campaign. Improvements in funding levels and access to the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP), which provides critical breast cancer screening, diagnostic, and treatment services for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women who do not qualify for Medicaid, will result in less delays and improved access to quality screening, diagnostics and treatment.

In addition to new requirements raising the income eligibility to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, up from 250%, and allowing women as young as 21 and women older than 65 to access the program, a long running grassroots campaign to increase funding to the program resulted in $350,000 of additional funding per year awarded to the project. The project had previously been able to serve less than 10% of the eligible women in the state. BCCP is the number one safety-net for low income, underinsured, and uninsured women to access mammograms, clinical breast exams, and treatment for both breast and cervical cancer.

“This is a good start, as more — and younger — women, less likely to be insured, will be able to get early screening and necessary medical attention if they find abnormalities – apart from the annual screenings, that don’t start until the age of 40,” said Sean Shacklett, Executive Director of Komen Northeast Ohio.

In the state of Ohio, 10,240 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,710 will die – in 2019 alone. With advances in science and treatment coupled with early detection, national breast cancer mortality rates are beginning to decline. However, Ohio still ranks 6th in the nation in breast cancer mortality rates.

Komen Northeast Ohio continues to push for more awareness of the BCCP’s programs, availability, and – more critically – all-inclusive access to the BCCP’s Medicaid support program. Under current legislation, women who are diagnosed cannot access the BCCP’s Medicaid program — high quality care throughout treatment – unless their diagnosis came through a BCCP screening itself. These barriers to access are particularly devastating for women with metastatic breast cancer, struggling with the financial toxicity of treatment, disability, and quality of life issues.

“Komen Northeast Ohio would like to thank the Governor and the leadership in the Ohio House and Senate for recognizing the importance of BCCP in the healthcare of the women in our state, as well as all of the advocates, patients, providers and others who raised their voice to ask for increased funding,” said Shacklett. “Hundreds of advocates utilized our online petition to contact their representatives, and we’re encouraged by the impact this kind of action can make. We know lives will be saved as a result.”

Launched in March at a statewide advocacy summit, Komen led a group of advocates in requesting funding for BCCP be restored to 2015 levels after two budget cycles of cuts to the program resulted in less women being served, despite the clear need in Ohio. Associate Director, Gina Chicotel, commented, “We are so grateful and inspired by what our community can achieve together in closing the gaps in access to care and supporting patients. No one should suffer poor outcomes from breast cancer because of their finances.” Advocate and metastatic breast cancer patient Tori Geib testified before the Senate Finance Committee in May, asking for increased funding and improved access to not only BCCP, but the corresponding Medicaid Treatment Program, sharing how she had been forced to file bankruptcy after being unable to access the program due to eligibility limitations.

“We look forward to ongoing work with leadership at the Ohio Departments of Health and Medicaid to resolve how this expanded population will access treatment through changes, most importantly the all-inclusivity, that Komen has urged to the BCCP Medicaid Treatment Program,” she added.