Budget cuts could affect access to mammograms

PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — A prominent Connecticut doctor is warning that the new state budget could affect access to mammograms for all women.

As state lawmakers are heading back to the Capitol next week to trim back businesses taxes, there’s increasing pressure to restore some spending cuts. Cuts in the state budget could result in much longer waits for appointments and much longer waits for the report on your test.

No one knows why, but Connecticut has the highest incidence of breast cancer in the country. It could be because the state has been a leader in making sure more women are tested than in other states. The good news is that because of early detection, the mortality rate has gone down 30-percent.

Dr. Kristen Zarfos of the Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute has been in the vanguard of physicians pushing for access to breast health for 20 years. She’s warning that cuts to the Medicaid radiology reimbursement rates in the state budget will likely cause delays for all women seeking the important exams and getting someone to read them.

“It’s about access for not just Medicaid patients, but Medicare patients and women with insurance,” she said.

She says the reimbursement rates are lower than most of the other states, and that will inevitably result in cut backs in staffing.

“They’re reimbursed so little that it will impact their overhead, and so they will be forced to let radiology techs across the state go,” said Dr. Zarfos.

It’s not just mammography that will be impacted, as reimbursements for other types of imaging for tests are also affected. There are reports that some private practices are stopping or restricting the number of Medicaid patients they see. There are about three-quarters of a million Connecticut residents on Medicaid.

Dr. Zarfos says the cuts will likely impact everyone.

“Fewer hours to see patients. Less availability, fewer kind receptionists at the front desk to get you in, to answer the phone, and set it up,” she said. “So there’ll be a delay, potential delay, in having your mammogram.”

And everyone knows that early detection is very important.

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