Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2015 : Page 5

SPECIAL ADVER TISING SECTION AFFORDABLE CARE ACT FINANCIAL HELP FOR MEDICAL BILLS By Carol Ann Donnelly he Affordable Care Act was supposed to provide Americans with access to affordable health insurance and improve medical care while cutting healthcare spending. So, why did 6 percent of taxpayers opt to pay the penalty when they filed their income tax returns for 2014? And, why did almost the same number of people who selected plans through the government exchange choose to or fail to pay the premiums? Perhaps it’s because the Affordable Care Act, even with its subsidies and tax credits for those who qualify, isn’t enough for many people who are living paycheck to paycheck. The reality is that even if a single person can afford one of the exchange’s bronze-level policy premiums, which range from $192 to $241 a month, after she has paid for the luxuries of eating and living indoors, she will still have to meet a $4,700 to $5,800 deductible and that doesn’t include coinsurance payments on some of the policies. That means a person who is not poor enough to get healthcare coverage for free would meet certain financial destruction if she developed a serious illness. Not all is lost. There is good news. The Rhode Island Depart-ment of Health’s Women’s Cancer Screening Program (WCSP) has been a sort of superhero to Rhode Island women, complete with a pink cape blowing in the wind, since its inception in 1995. It has worked to reduce the morbidity and mortality burden of breast and cervical cancers among low-income women, serv-ing uninsured and underinsured women across the state. WCSP has provided breast and cervical screenings to more than 32,000 Rhode Island women, and it has provided 43,175 mam-mograms and 41,469 pap smears. It has also enrolled more than 2,000 women into Medicaid to cover the cost of treatment for the diagnosis of precancerous conditions of the breast or cervix or a diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer since the establishment of the treatment component in 2001. As a result, 397 cases of breast cancer and thirty-two cases of invasive cervical cancer that would have otherwise gone undetected have been diagnosed. “The Rhode Island Women’s Cancer Screening Program pro-vides no-cost pelvic exams, pap tests, HPV tests, clinical breast exams and mammograms to eligible Rhode I sland women. We also cover the cost of many diagnostic tests,” says Brenda Di Paolo, health program administrator for the Rhode Island Depart-ment of Health. With the introduction of the Affordable Healthcare act almost two years ago, enrollment for WCSP has decreased. That’s because 70,000 of the estimated 128,000 Rhode Islanders without medical coverage qualified for the Medicaid expansion, meaning they were able to get health insurance without paying a monthly premium or being responsible for exorbitant deductibles and co-insurance payments. WCSP has found that many low-T income women are facing costly co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that kick in when a woman is recom-mended for further follow-up after an initial screening mammogram. For many women, this financial burden creates a barrier to the follow-up care needed. Hence, WCSP made changes to its program and, in true superhero fashion, it is jumping over the proverbial skyscraper in a single bound to help insured women pay their deductibles and co-insurances for procedures related to breast and/or cervical follow-up diagnostic care. What hasn’t changed is WCSP’s generous income guideline, which is 250 percent of the federal poverty level. That means that a single woman who makes less than $29,425 annually may be eligible for this assistance, assuming she meets all the crite-ria. And, the annual income allowance increases with the size of the family. If a woman has two dependent children, she can earn up to $50,225 and still qualify for WCSP assistance. This is great news for women who are trying to stay afloat in a time when they are earning less and paying more for neces-sities like food, housing and utilities. The cost of further diag-nostic testing to determine whether a suspicious spot on a mammogram is cancer could financially ruin someone with a high-deductible health insurance plan. WCSP has notifi ed all of its providers statewide of the new policy change, and it urges doctors’ offi ces to contact them if they have a patient who may be eligible. “We encourage providers to refer low-income insured women directly to our statewide WCSP information line at 401-222-4324, and any insured Rhode Island woman who cannot afford the cost of her deductibles, co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses related to breast and/or cervical follow-up or diagnostic services can call us directly,” Di Paolo says.

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