The Carol Milgard Breast Center (CMBC) has been serving men and women in the South Sound region since 2009, and touches the lives of more than 40,000 people each year. A breast imaging facility, CMBC conducts more than 55,000 exams and procedures annually. That number includes a large percentage of the local population that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has identified as being at high risk for breast cancer.
The organization’s guiding principles reflect a real emphasis on providing compassionate, quality care. Their mission is to ensure that patients are informed, prepared and receive expert treatment. That’s why, in 2015 alone, the organization donated $637,634 as well as $52,932 for outreach to underserved communities and another $89,274 to education aimed at increasing breast cancer awareness.
When it comes to cancer—a disease that, according to the American Cancer Society, will claim more than half a million lives in 2017—early detection is key. Study after study has concluded that the most surefire way to combat cancer, in addition to living a healthy lifestyle, is to discover abnormal cells as soon as possible.
“Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in women, affecting one in every eight women in the U.S.,” states CMBC’s marketing specialist Queena Tupou. “The goal of screening exams for early breast cancer detection is to identify breast abnormalities as early as possible. If breast cancer is found early, there are more treatment options and a better chance for survival. Women whose breast cancer is detected at an early stage have a 93 percent or higher survival rate in the first five years. Early detection at any age is important to raise life expectancy and start early treatment.”
With the help of targeted outreach and education through programs such as FaithHealth in Action, the Carol Milgard Breast Center has contributed to a decline in Pierce County’s cancer mortality rate. Creating awareness is important, but the center knows that there is one impediment in particular that stands between patients and life-saving screenings: funding.
Tupou explains that patients too often wait until their symptoms are severe to seek any type of medical attention. Financial limitations and a lack of healthcare coverage dissuade many men and women from annual screenings because the cost seems to outweigh the perceived benefit. CMBC’s financial assistance programs exist to address that issue.
“As a non-profit organization, we provide financial assistance to eligible patients so they can access essential mammography services, regardless of their financial circumstances,” Tupou says. “Aside from providing financial assistance, we believe in helping our patients achieve the best health possible. We understand that due to economic barriers, patients do not seek medical attention until it is absolutely necessary. This is why in 2016 we focused on not only granting financial assistance, but also referring patients to other healthcare programs.”
The programs the CMBC refers patients to are aimed at helping low income, uninsured patients obtain exams and visits to providers at low cost or no cost to them, and primarily include Breast, Cervical, & Colon Health Program (BCCHP), Pierce County Project Access (PCPA), Apple Health and the Health Insurance Exchange. “We also grant match financial awards from our owner health systems -MultiCare and CHI Franciscan. We work hard to make it easier for our patients to receive mammograms as well as care for their overall health,” explains Tupou. If eligible, patients are referred to other financial assistance programs; these programs also allow patients to access providers for other medical necessities.
Many patients who have already applied for financial aid through MultiCare Health System or CHI Franciscan Health System are able to simply provide their current award letter from that institution instead of their income documentation along with the CMBC financial aid application.
The majority of patients apply for financial aid by providing their household income documentation. The breast center uses a sliding fee scale to determine eligibility.
While most breast exams are recommended for women 40 and older, young women also may experience breast problems. Providing service to younger populations that face the challenge of being uninsured or financially burdened, CMBC created the First Look program. It provides financial assistance to women ages 34 and under or men of any age, who are experiencing breast problems and find themselves in need of diagnostic breast imaging services.
For any charges that financial aid or grant matching may not cover, patients can also take advantage of CMBC’s flexible payment options. A charge- and interest-free payment plan is one way to pay for imaging services at the CMBC. Same-day payment discounts are also available for those who are able to pay their bill in full.
To learn more about financial aid options, contact the Carol Milgard Breast Center and request information from a financial aid specialist today. For more information about how to apply for the Carol Milgard Breast Center’s Financial Assistance Program, please contact CMBC’s financial aid coordinator at 253-301-6616.