Press Release

July 7, 2005


New laws require insurers to cover more breast and ovarian cancer screenings

New state lottery ticket to raise money for breast cancer research;
expansion of Penny Severns cancer research fund

CHICAGO – Building on his record of making women’s health care more affordable and accessible, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed several laws providing additional cancer screenings for women and expanding funds for critical cancer research. The laws require insurers to cover breast cancer screenings earlier in a woman’s life, and to cover ovarian cancer screenings for at-risk women. Another new law creates a new instant scratch-off lottery game, called “Ticket for a Cure,” to raise money for breast cancer research. A fourth law signed by the Governor expands the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research.

“Too many mothers, wives, sisters and daughters die from cancer every year. Detecting cancer early can mean the difference between life and death. These new laws require insurance companies to cover earlier cancer screenings for women who are at-risk and create new avenues to donate money to cancer research,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

“The ‘Ticket for the Cure’ will be the first legislation of its kind in the nation to create a lottery game with the sole purpose of providing funding to the fight against breast cancer,” Senate President Emil Jones said. “The funds will be dedicated to education, early detection efforts, prevention, screening, treatment and services for women who are battling this disease.”

Sponsored by Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 12 requires insurance companies to cover screening for breast cancer earlier in a woman’s life if her doctor considers her to be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women 20 years of age and older; with an estimated 9,000 women expected to be diagnosed in Illinois this year. And, before this law, only women who were 40 years old or older received insurance coverage for mammograms.

Senate Bill 12 requires insurance companies to cover mammograms for women who have a family history of breast cancer or who have other risk factors such as genetic defects that place them at higher risk. The woman’s doctor will determine the age to begin the mammograms and the intervals between each mammogram that would have to be covered by insurance.

“We have seen tremendous progress in the treatment of breast cancer over the last couple of decades and consequently, we have seen a decline in the death rates,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Early detection is key to the survival of cancer, when treatments are most effective.”

One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime and one in 34 will die. The overall breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by 2.7 percent every year from 1993-2002, that’s a combined 20.7 percent decrease in Illinois.

The late Sen. Margaret Smith (D-Chicago) sponsored the original version of SB 12 and made numerous attempts to push the legislation through the General Assembly during the last seven years of her tenure in office. When Sen. Hunter succeeded Sen. Smith in 2003, she continued to fight to pass SB 12, culminating with Gov. Blagojevich signing the bill into law - taking effect immediately.

“Too many women, especially minority women, are going undetected because of the lack of education and waiting too long to be diagnosed. This legislation will allow more women with risk factors to get the screening they need and ultimately increase their chances of survival if diagnosed,” said Sen. Hunter.

Several breast cancer awareness groups joined the Governor at the bill signing – including representatives from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Founded in 1982 in the Peoria native's memory by her sister, Nancy Brinker, the Komen Foundation is a global leader in the fight against breast cancer through its support of innovative research and community-based outreach programs. By 2003, the Komen Foundation had awarded grants totaling more than $112 million for breast cancer research projects, the nation's largest private provider of funds for such research as well as community outreach programs. 2003 also marked the 20th anniversary of the Komen Race for the Cure ®, with 112 Races held in the United States and two international Races, with more than 1.5 million participants. The Peoria Memorial Affiliate of the Komen Foundation was formed in 1992.

“The mission of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is to eradicate breast cancer as a life threatening disease through research, education, screening and treatment,” said Philip Lockwood, co-chair of the Komen Peoria Race for the Cure and a Board member of the Peoria Memorial Affiliate. “We are encouraged by these newly enacted laws which will increase the availability of critical cancer screening for women and help generate additional funding for research and services.”

Y-ME Illinois , a non-profit breast cancer organization, lobbied for the legislation by encouraging their supporters to call their local legislators and express the need for the law.

“We applaud the Governor for making women’s health a priority. These laws are important steps in the right direction toward saving the lives of more women in Illinois,” said Ruth Brody, executive director, Y-ME, Illinois. “Providing women already at-risk for this disease with better access to screenings is essential to catching cancer during the early stages of diagnosis.”

“Being treated for cancer is an extremely challenging experience for the patient as well as the family,” said Maria Padilla of Chicago, a 2-year breast cancer survivor. “In my case, the anxiety and frustration of treatment was magnified based on the lack of services offered to me at that time. This legislation will create much needed funding that could possibly help save many more lives including my own.”

To raise money for critical breast cancer research, Gov. Blagojevich also today signed Senate Bill 1 creating a special instant lottery scratch-off game. Sponsored by Sen. Hunter and Rep. Feigenholtz, the new law requires the Department of Revenue to offer the game called “Ticket for the Cure.” The revenue generated from the game will provide grants to public or private organizations in Illinois for breast cancer research and funding services for breast cancer victims.

“ ‘Ticket for the Cure’ is a legislative response to a crisis that is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among Illinois women. Senate Bill 1 was the priority of our caucus and I feel very honored and proud to be the one who was able to carry this legislation. Seeing this measure passed into law is truly a great moment,” said Sen. Hunter, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

“The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program is almost at full capacity and women may be forced onto waiting lists to get free breast and cervical cancer screenings provided to them. A portion of the proceeds from this game could help avoid that situation and enable all eligible women to get the services they need,” said Rep. Feigenholtz.

An advisory board called the Ticket For The Cure Board will be created within the Illinois Department of Public Health to determine how the funds will be dispersed. The game will begin after January 1, 2006 and will end on December 31, 2011.

"The American Cancer Society recognizes the importance of funding patient services for the uninsured such as, long-term care issues, utility assistance, rent assistance, and transportation needs," said Ermilo Barrera, MD, president, American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. "Ticket for the Cure will help provide increased access to these vital services, with the hope that quality of life will greatly improve at diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond."

Gov. Blagojevich signed a third piece of legislation today which requires insurers to cover screening tests for women at–risk for the development of ovarian cancer. In Illinois, more than 1,000 women are diagnosed every year and more than 600 women die annually. Women are generally advised to get an annual pap test and pelvic exam, but if they are “at-risk” because of first-degree family history with ovarian cancer, the new law says insurers must cover additional tests like a transvaginal ultrasound and CA 125 blood tests every six months. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for these ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. The law goes into effect January 1, 2006.

While ovarian cancer is not as common as breast cancer, it is more deadly because it is more difficult to detect and there are typically no symptoms in the early stages. Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago) sponsored SB 521.

“This legislation widens the definition of ‘at-risk for ovarian cancer’ to include having a family history and additional means of screenings so more cases will be diagnosed in the early stages,” said Sen. Martinez. “Senate bill 521 is critical in reducing the mortality rate from this very deadly cancer.”

Gov. Blagojevich today signed a fourth bill, which expands the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research. House Bill 3564 changes the name to the “Penny Severns Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.” IDPH will award grants to eligible physicians, hospitals, laboratories, educational institutions and other organizations for the purpose of cancer research.

Rep. Osterman and Sen. Debbie Halvorson ( D-Chicago Heights) sponsored the bill.

"Ovarian cancer is a silent killer that has taken the lives of far too many women.  It is our hope that this legislation will help save lives by providing critical research dollars for improved early detection and a cure for this terrible disease," said Rep. Osterman.

“Including ovarian cancer research in the Penny Severns Fund makes sense. Too many women suffer from this disease and this is one way people can contribute to the funding of cancer research and services,” said Sen. Halvorson.

The Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Research Fund was renamed in 1999 to honor the late State Senator from Decatur and her commitment to public service and breast cancer awareness. Sen. Severns passed away from breast cancer in 1998. First established by Gov. Jim Edgar in 1993 as the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund , a special fund within the State Treasury to be used for breast and cervical cancer research grants, the fund consists of general revenue funds and income tax contributions, as well as donations from foundations, nonprofit organizations, and other governmental entities. Illinois residents have had the opportunity to contribute to the Fund through the IL 1040 tax form. For the past 11 years the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund has funded 95 projects, 28 of them being multi-year awards for a total of $4.8 million, $2.15 of that being from income tax contributions.

Gov. Blagojevich continues to show his commitment to women’s health by adding $100,000 to ovarian cancer research in the FY 2006 budget. He also pledged an additional $4 million in state funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education for minority women. The administration’s support for community and faith-based groups, such as the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC) resulted in nearly 13,000 screenings since the inception of the program in July 2004. SAC ends June 30, 2005 and there are plans to renew the program next year to provide further pap, cervical, pelvic, and mammogram screenings to women of color. SAC works to target the hardest to reach minority women throughout Illinois by partnering with neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

In FY 05, the total amount of funds supporting breast and cervical cancer programs is $11.45 million including $6.15 million in state dollars. Over the last two years, investments toward breast and cervical cancer screening and education programs in Illinois total more than $21 million. Over the last 10 years, The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP), has provided free mammograms, pap tests and pelvic exams to 57,000 low-income women between the ages of 35-64 who have no health insurance. The IBCCP celebrated their 10 th anniversary this year.

Gov. Blagojevich passed legislation in December creating a 12-member Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force to help educate the public about cervical cancer and develop a statewide, comprehensive prevention and control plan.

Gov. Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:

  • Breast and Cervical Cancer Funding : Provided increased funding to screen additional women for breast and cervical cancer. Nearly 39,000 women in two years, 44 percent of whom are minorities, received free screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). Since taking office, the Governor has also added an additional $4 million in state funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education.
  • WISEWOMAN : Piloted the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research project in DuPage County. The project is targeted toward women in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles. It is now expanding to twenty counties.
  • Women’s Health Education : Provided funding and support for community-based information and education programs. In July 2004, Women’s Health Initiative grants totaling $1.5 million in state funding were awarded to 72 local health departments and other non-profit organizations to fund educational programs focusing on cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, menopause and eating disorders. In January of 2005, another $100,000 in state funds was awarded to 26 groups for health awareness events and walking campaigns, many of which target specific minority groups, including African-American, Asian and Latina women.
  • Women’s Health-Line : Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY04, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 3,000 requests, referring women to services and providing nearly 345,000 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
  • First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule will become permanent this summer. In addition, the state will soon launch a new website to help women know which insurers now cover contraceptives, helping hundreds of thousands of women save an average of $400/ year on the cost of their contraceptives.

Today’s announcement is part of Governor Blagojevich’s long standing effort to make sure that more people get more health care and better benefits, protect coverage for those who have health care, and help hospitals, doctors and nurses provide better health care. Specifically:

  • Best in the nation for providing health care to the working poor: Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits. This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children. The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it.
  • Improving women’s health programs: Governor Blagojevich created the Illinois Healthy Women program to provide health care to women who otherwise would go without. To date, the program has served more than 90,000 women. In addition, Illinois has dramatically increased the number of mammograms and cervical cancer screenings since Governor Blagojevich took office.
  • One of only a handful of states to protect Medicaid recipients: The budget signed by Governor Blagojevich a few weeks ago ensures – for the third consecutive year, despite facing budget deficits – that Medicaid recipients maintain their health care, unlike states ranging from Missouri to Tennessee to Texas to Washington who are either kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing benefits.
  • First state to develop a statewide small business health insurance pool and program: Governor Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are developing a small business health insurance program that will help small businesses reduce their costs by 10-15% and provide more health care for their employees. Illinois will be the first state to create a pool where businesses of 50 employees or less can join, saving money on the negotiated rate, administrative costs and broker fees.
  • First state to make rx drugs from Europe and Canada available: Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois became the first state to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs from Europe and Canada. More than 10,000 people have enrolled in the last few months alone to take advantage of lower prices (25-50% less) for over 120 name brand prescription drugs.
  • Most comprehensive state response to fill in gaps in the federal rx drug benefit: This summer, the Governor signed the Leave No Senior Behind law, which is Illinois’ response to the federal Medicare rx drug benefit. Because of the major holes in the federal program, the Governor’s plan fills in the gaps, so Illinois seniors will not suffer the same fate that face seniors in other states.
  • First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule will become permanent this summer. In addition, the state will soon launch a new website to help women know which insurers now cover contraceptives, helping hundreds of thousands of women save an average of $400/ year on the cost of their contraceptives.
  • Accessing nearly $2 billion in new federal health care money: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign the hospital assessment legislation, which means nearly $2 billion in new federal funding for Illinois hospitals. Last year, the Governor persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to approve a plan that meant nearly $500 million in new federal funds for Illinois hospitals. This plan, which requires federal approval but was constructed with their guidelines in mind, means more than three times that amount.
  • Medical Malpractice Reform: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign major medical malpractice reform legislation, which will reduce the cost of insurance premiums for doctors and stop doctors from leaving the state. Governor Blagojevich helped pass the legislation despite his personal opposition to caps, because making sure that people have access to health care is probably the most important function government performs.
  • Reducing the nursing shortage: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign a package of bills aimed at reducing the nursing shortage in Illinois, including making it easier for foreign nurses to practice in Illinois. The state also eliminated the nurses registration backlog this April and increased the amount available in grants for nurses’ training. This fulfills the initiative launched by the Governor in his State of the State address to reduce the nursing shortage.

For more information on women’s health and programs visit or call the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY, (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466.


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Illinois Department of Public Health
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