Ozarks Tonight: Colorectal Cancer and how Medicare patients miss out on screenings

Ozarks Tonight
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo – Missourians, and people around the country, might not be getting screened for colorectal cancer because they are afraid they might have to cover some of the cost.

Most insurance companies cover colonoscopies for 50 -75 years of age, but the same is not true for those on Medicare, who might have to pay 20% of the cost.

That is problematic, the American Cancer Society says, because colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable diseases, and more than half of all colorectal cancer patients are Medicare beneficiaries. The American Cancer Society – Cancer Action Network is pushing for legislation that can help cover these costs so that people won’t have to avoid a screening simply because of the financial burden.

In this Ozarks Tonight, Jenifer Abreu talked to Tim Freeman with ACS -CAN and Marijana Kotlaja with Fight SRC, to learn more about this legislation and the impact of screening.

“A recent study suggests that 58% of colorectal cancer deaths in 2020 will be due to ‘non-screening.'” American Cancer Society.

Here’s how it works:

A Medicare patient comes in for a colonoscopy, which is screening, so it’s covered. However, if a non-cancerous formation, called a polyp, is found, it’s removed. That visit then goes from being considered a screening to a procedure, which will cost the patient 20% of the total cost, about $365. An unexpected expense to some who may already among a vulnerable population.

The ACS says about 34% of Medicare beneficiaries are under 200% of the federal poverty level.

S668 and HR 1570 also known as the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act:

The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act would eliminate the surprise bill associated with polyp removal, removing the financial concerns that may prevent some patients from getting a screening that could be life-saving.

The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate.

Congress Billy Long, Senator Josh Hawley, and Senator Blunt, Freeman says, all support the bill.

While the timeline nor the passage of the Act is guaranteed, Freeman says advocates are always “cautiously optimistic” it will pass.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

In 2019, the American Cancer Society estimated 145,000 people would be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. And 51,000 were expected to die from the disease.

In Missouri, 3,110 new cases were predicted last year. And 1,050 deaths. Missouri’s death rate is above the national average for colorectal cancer.

The importance of early detection:

The American Cancer Society says a five-year survival rate is 14% when the cancer is found at a later stage, but 90% if caught early.

ACS recommends people start getting tested at 45. This could be different for those who have a family history of the disease.

In 2000, there was a 38% screening rate. And 21 deaths in every 100,000.

In 2015, a 63% screening rate and 14 deaths in every 100,000.

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