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Californian Gov. Schwarzenegger Criticized Over Cuts To Breast Cancer Screening Program For Low-Income Women

At a hearing this week, California Assembly Budget Committee Chair Noreen Evans (Democrat) criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (Republican) decision to make cuts to a program that offers no-cost breast cancer screening and other services to low-income women, Capitol Weekly reports. Evans argued that making cuts to the Every Woman Counts program was beyond the Schwarzenegger administration’s authority. State Department of Public Health Director Mark Horton said that the cuts were necessary and that Evans’ committee approved them, which Evans denied.

After the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines last year stating that most women should begin screening mammograms at age 50, the state DPH changed the eligibility age for the program from 40 to 50. Horton said the agency would save $16 million by suspending new applications to the program and restricting some services, such as mammograms for women in their 40s.

Evans said that DPH and the administration made cuts to the program after the committee denied their initial request to do so. “You planned to restrict eligibility, and the Legislature said no,” she said, adding, “We said come back with another plan. And the next thing we heard, the administration had unilaterally restricted eligibility and closed down enrollment.”

Horton said that EWC is “not an entitlement program” and that general fund money was not requested to backfill the program because of the state’s budget crisis. EWC is funded with federal dollars and money from a state law that distributes tobacco tax funds. Schwarzenegger’s administration has said cuts to the program and others funded with the tobacco tax money are necessary because of declining tobacco sales. “We feel that we have managed the [EWC] program appropriately, given the pressures of increased enrollment and decreased resources,” Horton said.

Rachel Arrezola, a spokesperson for the governor, said the administration “continue[s] to be open to working with the Legislature on a solution that will cover as many women as possible without negatively impacting” the state’s budget (Maclachian, Capitol Weekly, 2/11).