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400,000 AZ Women Lose Health Exams to Budget Cuts

October 15, 2010

PHOENIX - Routine annual well-woman exams for 400,000 low-income Arizona women are no longer covered by the state's Medicaid program. It's the result of AHCCCS budget cuts imposed Oct. 1 by the legislature.

Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood says AHCCCS is effectively blocked from providing prevention services that would otherwise be covered.

"Go ahead and cover the pap smear, go ahead and do any tests for other infections, and go ahead and dispense the birth control, and you can reimburse for all of that. But you cannot reimburse for the exam where that gets done."

Howard says a typical well-woman exam costs around $120, making it unaffordable for most AHCCCS recipients, who live on less than $1,000 a month.

Without the annual exams, Howard predicts that the eventual cost to taxpayers will be much higher, whether it's for prenatal care and delivery of a baby a woman would have preferred to postpone, or dealing with a life-threatening disease.

"Treatment of cervical cancer, treatment of a breast mass, or breast cancer. Treatment is invariably much more expensive than the prevention."

Howard says for its part, Planned Parenthood is seeking donations so it can provide free well-care exams to as many women as possible, at least through the end of the year.

"We have an election on Nov. 2. We'll talk to the new class of legislators and see if they can be persuaded to understand the shortsightedness of eliminating prevention services, or creating a barrier to prevention services."

The American Cancer Society reports cervical cancer and resulting deaths have dropped by two-thirds over the last 30 years because of regular pap smears.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ