WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Despite efforts by President Barack Obama and the creation of the Affordable Care Act, along with state programs such as Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and Medicare, many women go without adequate health insurance coverage in Arizona.
To help with this problem, the Susan G. Komen foundation recently awarded more than $725,000 in grants to 10 community programs including North Country HealthCare to fund live-saving breast cancer education, screening, diagnostics treatment and survivor programs in Arizona.
The grant money will go toward the Well Woman HealthCheck Program (WWHCP) at North Country locations, including Williams, Ash Fork, Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.
"The Komen funding will assist with treatment for people who don't have other options for breast cancer treatment," said Program Manager Elizabeth Markona.
The WWHC Program at North Country HealthCare is funded through donations and the Arizona Department of Health Services through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The program helps low-income, underinsured and uninsured women ages 21-65 gain access to age-appropriate breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services including clinical breast exams; mammograms; Pap and HPV tests; and pelvic exams. Diagnostic testing such as ultrasounds, biopsies and other tests are available if screening results are abnormal.
"It's primarily for women who are diagnosed through the breast and cervical cancer screening program," Markona said. "But it is also for people who may have been diagnosed outside that program and have really high insurance deductibles or other factors."
Markona said the program specifically targets people who are at 250 percent of the federal poverty level and below. She said in order to qualify for AHCCCS a person must be at 130 percent of the federal poverty level and below.
"It targets that gap population that may not qualify for AHCCCS and may not be able to afford health insurance through the marketplace," Markona said.
Markona said many women who are screened through the program and are diagnosed with breast cancer will become eligible for ACCCHS even if they're over the income limit.
"That's a little caviat that was changed in the Arizona legislature a couple of years back," Markona said.
Markona said the WWHC program allows all Arizona women residents diagnosed with breast cancer, if they're at 250 percent or below of the federal poverty level and otherwise eligible for AHCCCS, to be fast tracked into ACHHHS even if they're over the 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
The Komen grant also helps cover men who are diagnosed with breast cancer and those who are on disability.
"The Komen grant kind of fills that gap," Markona said. "It can also help people who are recent immigrants who haven't been here long enough to be eligible for ACCCHS," Markona said.
"This program really helps a lot of people," said Williams Clinic Supervisor Mary Case. "It's a pretty huge outreach and it's so essential for women to get this health check done. There are a lot of women who don't have insurance who think they will never have a chance of getting these very serious concerns checked out."
Case said 18 women were enrolled in the WWHC program in Williams in 2015. They received breast and cervical cancer screenings and some received follow-up treatment.
Some of these patients signed up for the program when the mobile mammography unit came to Williams in May and September of that year.
In May 2016, 32 women received mammograms through the mobile mammography when it came to the Williams Clinic. The unit returns again Sept. 24 when North Country HealthCare has its annual health fair. The unit will travel to Ash Fork in October making mammography convenient in that community.
"They will actually send people out here," Case said. "They will have an information table and offer assistance in Spanish. But a woman can qualify any day of the week here at the clinic."
The Williams Clinic has a Family Health Advocate on staff to help patients determine if they qualify for WWHC. Patients can set up an appointment to meet with Family Health Advocate Sarah Kircher in private to discuss their needs. Kircher not only helps with the WWHC program, but can also help people apply for ACCCHS, food stamps and other community resources.
North Country HealthCare also has Patient Navigators who will work with persons interested in qualifying for WWHC. They will determine what age-appropriate screenings are due and set up an appointment for an exam at the Williams Clinic.
Case said many options are available at North Country HealthCare for women who are uninsured or underinsured. She encourages anyone who is having problems or would like to have a screening to call Kircher at the Williams Clinic.
"We're excited to have the program available in Williams," Markona said.
More information about the Well Woman HealthCheck Program is available at (928)522-9404 or for a Patient Navigator or Kircher at the Williams Clinic at (928) 635-4441.
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