Busting financials barriers for breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screenings may be intimidating for many reasons, but for women in the Yampa Valley, figuring out how to pay for a mammogram doesn’t have to be one of those stressors.
For women who are uninsured, underinsured or have low income, there are several resources that can help pay for breast cancer screening. Memorial Regional Health and Northwest Colorado Health both have programs for breast exams and mammograms, and there is a local nonprofit dedicated to the cause as well.
Not having insurance could be one of the biggest hurdles for women trying to get early breast cancer screenings, and sometimes transportation and childcare can be additional barriers.
A local nonprofit known for its signature event, the Bust of Steamboat, has been working in the Yampa Valley for over 20 years. Since its start in 2000, the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Program’s mission has been to help pay for mammograms in Routt and Moffat counties.
Long-time volunteer for the organization Jan Fritz said Bust of Steamboat covers the cost of mammograms for local women who need financial assistance. Fritz added that the organization will cover up to $750 per person, and she estimated that the typical cost of a mammogram is between $425 and $500.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has awarded MRH funding through the Women’s Wellness Connection grant to help women with financial barriers receive breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.
MRH Marketing and Community Relations Director Sheli Steele said the funding can be used to remove barriers and help women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive breast and cancer screening services. Clients would just need to request assistance from their provider to determine eligibility.
Additionally, Northwest Colorado Health has a program to provide free breast exams for women age 40 and up who don’t have insurance.
Women who are on Medicaid have these services covered through insurance and can make appointments for screenings with local providers.
Even for people who are insured, there could be other financial barriers. With the cost of insurance premiums on the rise each year, women on high-deductible plans could have to pay $7,000 to $8,000 out of pocket for before their benefits kick in to cover such services.
“We just want to let people in Craig know that these resources are available,” Fritz said. “If they need a mammogram and can’t get one because they don’t have the money, we can help them.”
Many insurance policies won’t cover the cost of a mammogram before the age of 40, which is the recommended age for women to start breast cancer screenings, according to the American Cancer Society.
“We don’t want women waiting, especially if it’s in their family history, because they can’t pay for a mammogram,” Fritz said.
Getting financial assistance is as easy as reaching out to the Bust of Steamboat to make a request. Fritz said the process for covering the costs of mammograms is simple, and the organization works with the hospitals or providers directly to pay for services.
Last year, Bust of Steamboat gave out $47,000 for mammograms in the Yampa Valley, and the organization helps between 100-125 patients per year. Fritz said the organization has been around for a long time, and it is committed to helping women get what they need for breast care.
In addition to early cancer screening, the Bust of Steamboat will provide financial assistance for clients who are going through treatment for breast cancer. Fritz said that in the past, they have paid for other expenses that weren’t covered by insurance including transportation to radiation, doctors visits, child care for doctors visits, medications and wigs for clients with hair loss from treatment.
“We’re pretty flexible in what we do and what we can cover,” Fritz said. “But our big thing is let’s make sure people get their mammograms.”
There are also resources through MRH and the Moffat County Cancer Society for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer to help with transportation, child care and other financial barriers.
The Bust of Steamboat is an entirely volunteer-led organization solely focused on raising funds to help pay for these services for community members. Fritz said they have a very low overhead for the organization and don’t keep a physical office space in Steamboat.
Prior to COVID, the Bust of Steamboat volunteers held an annual art auction to raise funds, but since the pandemic, most of their fundraising and outreach has been done online and through Facebook.
Fritz said that the Bust of Steamboat is now channeling most of its fundraising efforts to Colorado Gives Day and Yampa Valley Gives Day in December.
For more information about financial assistance for mammograms and breast cancer screening, reach out to the Bust of Steamboat at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BustOfSteamboat.
According to Fritz, in the past the Bust of Steamboat has gotten a high number of Spanish-speaking or Hispanic clients who were unable to access mammogram services because of financial barriers or a lack of insurance.
The organization has made some concerted effort in Routt County to do outreach for the Spanish-speaking community. In Moffat County, there also are more resources available for Spanish-speaking patients than there have been in the past.
MRH has on-site medical translators that can provide interpretation for scheduling, with patient’s appointments and with billing and insurance questions. Medical translation can be set up for the mammography room if needed.
Integrated Community in Steamboat also offers medical interpretation and translation, either in-person or over the phone, with a three days’ notice. Interpreters can assist with paperwork prior to the appointment, scheduling, and can interpret for appointments if the patient has declined the hospital interpreters. Interpreters can also assist with follow-up appointments if the client is referred to other providers.
Executive Director Nelly Navarro said that Integrated Community currently has two in-person interpreters in Craig, and the organization is planning to open a Moffat County office in two months.
From Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, 2022 is National Breast Cancer Awareness month where organizations across the country who are working to increase awareness and encourage early screenings, will raise their voices.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. hosts its annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. For more information about the national effort and activities throughout the month, visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org.
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