Resources for the Uninsured
By Jan Engoren
Tiffany Grantham is a 41-year old office manager for a small company in Coral Springs. A single mother and a survivor of breast cancer at age 35, she was not entirely surprised when she went for her yearly mammogram and found a lump in her breast.
With no health insurance and a pre-existing condition, Grantham found it hard to obtain coverage because it was so expensive. She says, "It was distressing and confusing. I received a certified letter from the hospital saying that it found something. The letter said, call your doctor and get a prescription for another mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.
"It was bad enough to get the letter, but, without any resources or knowing where to turn, I was at a loss. I called local doctors' offices and they wanted $200 to write the prescription for the mammogram and a full work-up. I don't have $200. And I felt all alone. When I went on a number of web sites looking for resources, I could always find the 'donate now' button, but couldn't find a list of available resources."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, uninsured patients disproportionately die from breast and cervical cancer. In an effort to address this concern, President Obama's Affordable Care Act entitles women to preventive health services, including free mammograms every one to two years for women forty and older, and cervical cancer screenings. Patients who are identified as high-risk for breast cancer can receive consultation on chemoprevention and genetic testing at no charge.
Thanks to her persistence, Grantham was able to identify local low-cost resources for uninsured and under-insured women. "I don't give up easily," she says. "I can be pushy."
Penny Westberry, M.S.W., executive director of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in West Palm Beach, whose mission is to save lives and end breast cancer, says, "Call our office. We have grants for diagnostic tests beyond mammograms and treatment. We want people to know we are here as a resource."
Feeling isolated can be a problem. "Don't navigate the system yourself," emphasizes Westberry. "We can help you."
Komen has awarded more than $1,300,758 in south Florida this year to twenty-one grantees that offer screening, treatment, diagnostics and education.
"We raise funds in the community and then turn around and use these monies back in the community," says Westberry. "We fill the gaps and resources for the uninsured and have available grants to refer them to right resources."
Broward Health Medical Center is one recipient of the Susan G. Komen grant monies. This year, it received a grant in the amount of $80,000 for breast cancer detection and treatment. According to Broward Health, approximately 1,500 mammograms and other breast health services have been funded by donations.
"Women in our community who would otherwise decide not to be examined, due to lack of insurance or other cultural or financial barriers, can come to us and receive breast screening and breast health services that may save their lives," said Pia Delvaille, manager of the Lillian S. Wells Women's Health Center at BHMC in Fort Lauderdale.
Other recipients of grant monies in Broward include Baptist Health Breast Center, Holy Cross Hospital, Inc., and the Broward County Health Department. In Palm Beach, recipients include Jupiter and Lakeside Medical Centers, Martin Memorial Hospital, Bethesda Women's Health Center, and Boca Regional Hospital Women's Health Center for Breast Care.
Lisa Boccard Breast Cancer Fund and the Broward Health Coral Springs Women's Diagnostic & Wellness Center have been providing free mammograms for women for ten years.
The American Cancer Society also has a list of available resources, which includes the Woman 2 Woman Breast Cancer Foundation in Lauderdale Lakes, Project Imani at Memorial Regional Hospital, Tamarac Community Center, and West Boca Diagnostic Imaging Center.
Westberry says, "Demand is high due to the economy. It's a difficult situation to be uninsured or under-insured and have to worry about screening or treatment. We hear a lot of relief when we connect women to resources that can help them."
Grantham was relieved to find the resources she needs. She recently had an ultrasound, compressed mammogram and non-surgical biopsy at the Lillian S. Wells Women's Health Center, which is part of the Broward County Health Department.
"The Lillian S. Wells Women's Health Center made an upsetting and difficult situation bearable," says Grantham, who praised staff members for being personable and concerned. "It has a breast navigator who takes your financial information and finds the programs for which you qualify, if you need more tests or treatment. This takes the stress out of the situation."
It also helped ease her mind that the environment of the waiting room, where patients sit, read magazines, watch TV, and enjoy the free coffee prior to their appointments, was nothing like a conventional hospital. Patterned fabric chairs, small tables, large photos of white tree branches, and décor in restful shades of beige and gray make the space seem more like an upscale, Zen- inspired spa than an impersonal medical facility.
Her experience makes Grantham passionate about the need for more readily available information. "At every women's center, there should be a list of programs and phone numbers for women to call," she says. "Some women do not have the resources to investigate on their own." Not every woman has a computer, she notes. And how many women have the persistence and determination to keep looking for answers in the face of a potential health scare?
This story has a happy ending. Grantham's test turned up good news. "The problem was cysts," she says. "I was advised to return for a follow-up mammogram only in six months."
For more information or to make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, visit www.komensouthflorida.org or call 561-514-3020.
To contact the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org or call the National Cancer Information Center at 800- 227-2345.
To learn more about the Komen for the Cure grant at BHMC or schedule an appointment, call 954-759-7500 or visit BrowardHealth.org.
For the Lisa Boccard Breast Cancer Fund, contact the Woman's Diagnostic & Wellness Center at 954-346-4242.
The Woman 2 Woman Breast Cancer Foundation, providing low-cost to no-cast mammograms, is in Lauderdale Lakes. Phone 954-730-7338.
The Broward County Health Department in Fort Lauderdale provides tests at varying rates for women age 50 to 64 without insurance or under-insured who meet income guidelines. Phone 954-762-3649.
Project Imani at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood requires a prescription for service provided, with a $20 co-pay, for women without health insurance who are financially under-served. They must have a doctor's prescription. Phone 954-276-5500.
West Broward X-Ray Center in Plantation provides mammograms for $90 to women without insurance. Phone 954-791-9729.