Thursday November 07, 2013
I was surprised by a CDC study I saw this week that found that in 2012 nearly 28 percent of U.S. adults had not received recommended colorectal cancer screenings. This is a scary statistic considering colon cancer is an easily preventable disease through the removal of precancerous polyps, which are detectable only through routine screening.
When you dive a little deeper into the study’s results you learn that insurance and having a regular care provider have an impact on screening – 55 percent of people without insurance have never been screened, and of those without a regular care provider, 61 percent have never been screened. Scientific research from the American Cancer Society has shown that people without health coverage are more likely than those with private insurance to be diagnosed with cancer at its more advanced stages and less likely to survive the disease. That’s why provisions in the health care law to increase access to affordable insurance and a regular care provider will help make colorectal cancer screenings more readily available to millions of Americans.
Beginning in 2014, the health care law requires all private health insurance plans cover colorectal cancer screening tests without any out-of-pocket costs beginning at age 50. This is important because evidence shows that even nominal cost-sharing can present a barrier to accessing preventative screenings. The administration has already issued guidance to health care providers that if a polyp is removed during a routine screening colonoscopy, the test should still be covered at no cost to the patient. Removal of polyps prevents them from advancing into later stage cancer that is more difficult and expensive to treat. ACS CAN calls on the administration to offer similar guidance for those patients with Medicare coverage, so there is no unexpected cost-sharing for what should be covered as a no-cost preventive service.
In addition to the elimination of cost-sharing for prevention services, the Prevention and Public Health Fund created under the law is helping to support hundreds of programs across the nation that are improving access to lifesaving cancer screenings such as colorectal cancer screening through education, help with transportation and community outreach. As this CDC Study points out, it is these kinds of outreach and education programs that have increased use of preventive services, such as immunizations, and are needed to increase the number of Americans who get screened for colorectal cancer.
While the health care law will increase access to health coverage for many Americans, those that remain uninsured will still need access to recommended cancer screenings. ACS CAN urges Congress to restore and sustain funding for the Colorectal Cancer Control Program through the CDC, which provides a critical service to many medically underserved men and women.
This year, an estimated 102,000 people in America will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 40,000 will die from the disease, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined. Yet, we know that if the majority of men and women aged 50 or older participated in routine screening for colorectal cancer, we could cut the risk of death by 50 percent. The health care law will have a significant impact on men and women getting these critical screenings, and I hope the next time these survey results are released we’ll be able to celebrate how many Americans are getting the screenings they need.
*Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/1aHliKk