Ohio House Panel Approves Anti-Cancer Bill

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A bill to generate money for screening and treatment of breast and cervical cancers should soon reach the Ohio House floor.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill, which would create an income-tax check-off allowing taxpayers to donate to the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project.

The legislation would not affect funds such as those that can be checked off by people signing up for driver’s licenses.

The Ohio Department of Health project provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to uninsured women who are 40 or older and who earn less than twice the federal poverty limit.

Between March 1994 and May 2011, a total of 73,547 women received at least one procedure funded by the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project.

Women diagnosed through the project are eligible to apply for Medicaid coverage during their treatment, said Sarah Gudz, program director for the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project.

“Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among women in this country and the state of Ohio,” Gudz said. “And with the state of our economy, many women have lost their jobs or health insurance, or can’t afford health insurance.”

The project receives much of its funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — about $4.2 million in the past year. This year, the project also received $823,000 from the state’s general-revenue fund and $1.3 million in tobacco master settlement funds that it won’t receive again.

“There’s never a guarantee when it comes to funding,” Gudz said, adding that extra funding helps the project screen, diagnose and treat more women.

The tax check-off would join similar donation options for two funds that shuttle money to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In 2009, the wildlife fund culled $344,714, while the natural-areas fund brought in $422,523. In past years going back to the 1980s, the funds sometimes brought in twice as much. Numbers from more-recent years can still change because of back taxes, said Bethany McCorkle, an ODNR spokeswoman.

“We’re happy to share the option to donate,” McCorkle said. “But we’re thankful for all of the donations we receive. All donations go directly to wildlife.”

This tax check-off is important, said Peter Beck, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman. The Mason Republican added that many Ohio representatives know people who have had breast or cervical cancer.

“It’s important to protect those women,” he said.

Rebecca McKinsey is a fellow in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaMcKinsey.