As women we CARE for our families, we CARE for our co workers, we CARE for our friends…rarely do we take time out to CARE for ourselves. When time and money is tight, often the priority that gets pushed to the bottom of the list is our own health care. This year the Care for Yourself program is encouraging women to put themselves back on the top of their own priority list.
The Care for Yourself program has been available to the state of Iowa since 1995. Known also as the Iowa Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, it is part of a larger national program with the same name, funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The state is split into service regions with coordinators located in local counties in order to be more accessible to the women and providers they serve. Locally there is a coordinator at Black Hawk County Health Department who serves Black Hawk, Buchanan, Fayette, Grundy and Tama counties.
Women ages 40-64 can qualify for a FREE mammogram, Pap smear and well woman exam if they meet the income guidelines and either have no insurance, or insurance that doesn’t cover these important screening services. The program also covers diagnostic testing if there is a concern about breast or cervical cancer.
“I am still surprised after 15 years of doing this program, that I can meet women who have never realized this program is available to them,” said Gabbi DeWitt, Black Hawk County coordinator. “Women are so thankful, because it concerns them to put off their health screenings in order to pay their bills instead. With the Care for Yourself program, we can take that worry away and set you up to see your doctor, usually within the next month.”
The Care for Yourself program contracts with local providers so that often women don’t have to change their provider, or go out of their way to access services.
One of the many reasons women put off screening exams is the fear of what will happen once a cancer is diagnosed. If you are diagnosed with cancer and you don’t have insurance to cover your treatment, it is scary to think of losing your home or going into debt because of medical costs. But luckily, since 2001, there has been a solution for women screened by the Care for Yourself program.
In 2001 the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act was passed. This allows women who are screened by the Care for Yourself program to access Medicaid, even if they don’t qualify for any standard Medicaid program, to pay for their breast or cervical cancer treatment. This has literally been a lifesaver for so many women.
“When you can take away one stressor, when you can help in even the smallest way as to say, ‘I can help you get coverage for treatment’, it relieves so much of the pressure the woman is feeling,” DeWitt said. “She doesn’t have to worry about losing her house, she doesn’t have to worry about how to pay for chemo, we at least can take that concern off her shoulders.”
The Care for Yourself program is available statewide in Iowa. If you or a woman you know are interested in learning more about the Care for Yourself program. Call 319-292-2225 or toll free at 1-800-369-2229. Calling toll free will allow the woman to be connected with the coordinator serving the county she lives in.