Women Worried About Well Woman Program Downsize

WISCONSINREPORT.COM (06/30/2015) – Under the leadership of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and fellow Republican lawmakers, Wisconsin is downsizing a program affecting thousands of women in the state. The Wisconsin Well Woman Program (WWWP) funding has been reduced, resulting in loss of jobs and healthcare locations to which women have access. The change is effective July 1, 2015.

The WAWH claims, after a year and a half pleading with leaders at the Department of Health Services (DHS) to restructure WWWP in a way that ensures Wisconsin women continue to have access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatments, DHS has ignored stakeholders at the risk of leaving some women without critical care.

“In 24 hours, DHS will flip the switch on a plan to drastically decrease the scope of an incredibly successful program that has served over 70,000 Wisconsin women for the past 20 years,” says WAWH Executive Director Sara Finger.

Since its inception, WWWP included a local coordinator in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to help women in communities across the state navigate their health care service and coverage options when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The program also contracted with over 1,000 health providers in every corner of Wisconsin to help women find and get treatment nearby.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R).

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R).

Despite consistent concerns raised by patients, advocates, providers and coordinators over the past couple of years, DHS has moved ahead with their plan to dramatically downsize the program from 72 local coordinators to just 13 regional coordinators and to limit the provider network to just 400 sites throughout the state. Under this plan a number of counties have one health care provider site available and some counties have no provider available to local women.

“We are incredibly worried that the reduced capacity in the Well Woman Program will prevent many women from catching a cancer diagnosis early and from getting the timely treatment they need to survive,” Finger said.

“Wisconsin leaders need to speak out for the women in their districts and fight to ensure their constituents have local access to the life-saving care provided through this program”, Finger suggested.

Meanwhile, Susan G. Komen Wisconsin Affiliates are also concerned about the downsize and what’s at stake. Wisconsin women may find it difficult to get the cancer screenings and treatment they need and deserve. This program provides breast cancer screening and diagnostic services for low-income and uninsured women who do not qualify for Medicaid.

The availability of this program has an impact on every Wisconsin taxpayer, as the uninsured will eventually present in our State’s hospitals with more advanced breast cancer diagnosis, putting an even greater strain on our fragile health care system and the State budget.

Wisconsin State Capitol BuildingThis, coupled with the State’s decision not to expand Medicaid, means that the WWWP is more vital than ever. The WWWP will bridge the coverage gap that exists between those currently eligible for Medicaid and eligibility for subsidies to buy health insurance in the private Marketplace. Our organization has long been partners with the State in fighting breast cancer.

The Susan G. Koeman organization fears women’s lives may be lost as a result of the cuts.

The current system with 72 local coordinating agencies in each county will be reduced to 13 regional agencies statewide. The extensive network of more than 1,000 health care providers has been reduced to a handful of large health systems that had to apply to participate via a competitive process The impact of these changes on effective delivery of services has not been evaluated.

“Early detection is key to survival; when breast cancer is detected early, the five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent, but plummets to just 24 percent when it’s detected at a later stage”, said Michelle Heitzinger, Executive Director, Susan G. Komen South Central.

“Without access to the breast health services provided by programs like the WWWP many uninsured women would be forced to delay or forego screenings, ultimately leading to diagnoses of more advanced breast cancers, which are deadlier and more costly to treat”, Heitzinger pointed out.

Breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body can be up to five times more expensive to treat as breast cancers confined to the breast” says Heitzinger.

For more information on the changes to the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/wwwp/model.htm

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