Cancer fight focuses on funds
Gov. Bill Owens has plenty of support in his bid to lawmakers to find money to help low-income women pay medical costs in their battle against breast and cervical cancer.
But there is sharp disagreement about where to find the money.
Owens wants to dip into Colorado's yearly $100 million share of money states get from settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies.
That has riled some people, including House Minority Leader Dan Grossman, D-Denver, who thinks the tobacco money already is being put to good uses, such as smoking prevention programs.
"The governor's solution to the breast and cervical cancer problem is to rob prevention programs to pay for treatment," Grossman said.
"There are other sources of money for this program. We don't have to let tobacco kill more kids to pay for it."
Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, will be the Senate sponsor of the new legislation during the upcoming special session.
A portion of the tobacco money now goes into a trust fund for future needs, and Anderson said she wouldn't touch that.
Other dollars go for programs to prevent or halt smoking; for research; to a home nurse program for first-time, low-income mothers; assistance for state veterans programs; and a read-to-achieve program for second- and third-graders.
The state has a cancer screening program in place for low-income women but has not funded efforts to treat women who have the disease but don't qualify for Medicaid.
Anderson wants to tap about $650,000 for the first year, $800,000 to $850,000 the second year and eventually $1.6 million a year.
The Colorado chapter of the American Cancer Society is being cautious in its response to the governor's current call.
"It's great news that this issue is getting such serious consideration because we want a breast and cervical cancer bill passed as soon as possible," said spokesman Matt Barkett. "We haven't seen the governor's bill, but we understand there are other alternatives possible."