Free Cancer Screenings Available to Uninsured; Income Limits do not Apply

July 23, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to meet with health professionals who work to prevent cancer and help detect the disease in its early stages. I wanted to draw attention to a great program they manage available to residents in both Oswego and Onondaga counties that screens participants for breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer for free. Not only does the program provide screenings for free, but if someone is diagnosed with cancer through the program, treatment is available at no cost.

Hereís how the Cancer Services Program works: If you are over the age of 40 and do not have insurance, you can call the county in which you reside for the free screening. In Oswego County, the number is 315-592-0830. In Onondaga County, the number is 315-435-3653. Participants are given some basic information about the program and directed to their primary care or OB-GYN doctor to make an appointment. Participants see their regular providers and the bill is paid for through this state-funded program after enrolling.

If cancer is detected, participants are enrolled in Medicaid which pays for the treatment and any other health-related costs during the time patients are treated for cancer. Funding has been set aside in Medicaidís budget in the Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program (MCTP) as part of New York Stateís commitment to early treatment and detection of cancer. Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases in New York and is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death. Each year, more than 100,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed and nearly one in four deaths in the state is due to cancer. Without insurance, it costs an estimated $80,000 for one year of colon cancer treatment. A colon-cancer screening can cost $2,000 without coverage.

In 2011, the Cancer Services Program of Oswego County screened almost 500 community members. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that was only 13% of the eligible population. That means 77% of eligible community members are NOT taking advantage of the free cancer screenings that are available to them through the Cancer Services Program in Oswego County. In Onondaga County, the program helped screen 1,051 individuals for breast, cervical, and/or colorectal cancer screenings. The program in Onondaga County identified 14 breast cancers, 1 cervical cancer, and pre-cancerous polyps in 16 individuals.

The American Cancer Society and our respective county health departments are working to spread the word about this program. Itís not so easy because the eligible population is always changing. Many who may have taken advantage of the free screenings in the past are either employed and have access to affordable health insurance or have aged out of the program. This means that there is room for more to take advantage of the free screenings.

If you do have health insurance, it's important to have regular check-ups and to make sure you are screened for cancers. Here are some facts about cancer screening that illustrate how important it is to be screened for cancer:

  • More than 30% of New Yorkers are not up-to-date with their colorectal cancer screenings.
  • At least six of every 10 deaths from colon cancer could be prevented if every adult over the age of 50 was tested regularly.
  • Adults ages 18-64 with no health insurance in the past 12 months were seven times more likely to skip medical care for cost reasons compared with those who were continuously insured.
  • The Pap test has reduced cervical cancer rates dramatically since it was first introduced in the U.S. 65 years ago.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.