The world of breast cancer in the United States is very much dependent on the healthcare legislation currently coming out of the Senate. The new healthcare bill aims to cut a fair amount of Medicaid coverage. According to Medscape, a cut in Medicaid funding and less coverage is associated directly with delays in diagnosing breast cancer.

In 2005, for instance, women in Tennessee were diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer after the state cut funds in Medicaid. The benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it expanded Medicaid in many states. There was funding available to cover the majority of Medicaid expansion in all states, but a number of states did not expand Medicaid.

“We show that a reduction in Medicaid coverage is associated with increases in late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer, which is more costly to treat and is associated with a greater risk of death relative to early-stage diagnosis,” coauthor Lindsay Sabik, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in Pennsylvania, told Medscape Medical News.

“Medicaid rollbacks may limit access to preventive and primary care that facilitates early diagnosis for low-income patients.”

In Tennessee, about 4 percent of the nonelderly population or 170,000 women lost Medicaid coverage in 2005. Dr Sabik and her team looked at how this lack of coverage impacted these women and the stage at which they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

After the rollback in Medicaid coverage, there were delays in treatment. In particular, low-income areas of Tennessee saw a jump in the percentage of breast cancer diagnosed at late stages. The percent increase was about 5 percent, which is definitely significant.

There are clearly negative health impacts for women around the country if Medicaid funding is cut through the Senate legislation.

“While we did not look at other cancers and can’t know whether the effect would be the same, there is reason to expect that we may see similar or more dramatic patterns for other cancers,” author Wafa Tarazi, PhD, of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, told the news source.

“Low-income uninsured women can get free mammograms and Pap tests through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, so for cancers without similar programs available, uninsured patients may have an even more difficult time accessing care necessary for a timely diagnosis.”

The Congressional Budget Office found that the new Senate healthcare bill would lead to 22 million Americans losing their healthcare coverage. The latest news from Washington says that Senate Republicans have decided to delay voting on the healthcare bill until after the July 4th recess, according to NBC News.

If you want to keep your health and the health of women around the country safe from financial ruin, contact your Senators and House representatives to emphasize your commitment to keeping Medicaid expansion covered. If your Senator is holding a town hall over the July 4th recess, be sure to attend and let them know what you think. Let your lawmakers know that you do not support the Senate healthcare bill.

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