publication date: Aug. 3, 2017

Colon Cancer

UW study links insurance coverage to higher rates of colorectal cancer screenings

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health determined that people with a certain type of insurance policy were more likely to be screened for colorectal cancer. 

People with policies that cover computerized tomography colonography for colorectal cancer screening are almost 50 percent more likely to get screened than those whose policies don’t cover the procedure, according to a new retrospective study by Maureen Smith, professor in the departments of population health sciences and family medicine.

The findings appeared online in the journal Radiology.

The American Cancer Society recommends CT colonography as one of the screening tests that can find both pre-cancerous polyps and cancer in people age 50 or older, but insurers have been slow to cover it.

Meanwhile, screening adherence rates have stalled at about two-thirds of the people who need to be screened, according to Smith.

Smith and her colleagues recently examined whether changing insurance benefits to cover CT colonography for screening might help improve screening rates.
Using electronic health records, the researchers looked at overall colorectal cancer screening rates for 33,177 patients younger than age 65 who were eligible and due for such screening.

About half of the people in the group were ultimately screened during the study period, and researchers compared screening rates between those with and without insurance coverage for CT colonography.

Data analysis showed that the people in the study who had insurance coverage for CT colonography had a 48 percent greater likelihood of being screened by any method compared with those who were due for screening but did not have coverage.

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