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Governor Expands Cancer Screenings

Illinois will increase its breast and cervical cancer-screening program to cover all women without insurance in another move by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to increase access after his health care agenda failed in the General Assembly.

The expansion, announced, would make screening and treatment obtainable to 260,000 more women. They need to, only be uninsured to qualify - their income levels no longer matter, according to the governor's office.

"I wish we can say that this was legislation that we were able to pass in state government, but unfortunately with all the different dynamics that take place there, sometimes the most obvious good things just don't happen," Blagojevich said at a Chicago hospital before heading to Belleville, Mt. Vernon and Peoria to announce the expanded program.

Lawmakers refused to pay for Blagojevich's agenda on health care, education and debt reduction with a business tax increase proposed by the governor, which would have been the major tax increase in state history. Therefore, the Democratic governor has used his veto powers to slash $463 million from the state budget and has promised to put in or expand government health care services to the tune of more than $400 million.

In August, Blagojevich detailed plans to expand the state's health insurance coverage for unwell or injured young adults after their coverage through All Kids ends on their 19th birthday.

Blagojevich said expanding the women's cancer screening program could cost about $50 million. His representative Abby Ottenhoff said that would be the total cost of the program if all entitled women are screened and treated.

Blagojevich said, "We're paying for it by the vetoes of pork-barrel projects and other special-interest spending that I vetoed in the budget."

Under the program, all uninsured women between the ages of 40 and 64 can get free mammograms and breast exams, and those between the ages of 35 and 64 can get pelvic exams and Pap tests to check for cervical cancer. Medicare covers women 65 and over.

According to the governor's office, women who are diagnosed with cancer can get treatment paid for through coverage from the department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Sharon Mays of Chicago said the program was a lifesaver for her. The 41-year-old's breast cancer discovered last summer after she went to a city, health department clinic. Mays, who did not have insurance, said the state program has paid for her screening and subsequent treatment, as well as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

She said, I wouldn't have had the money.



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