Colonoscopy Screenings on the Rise under Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act increasing colonoscopy numbers

It is not often that we get to report this, but there is a medical trend sweeping the United States, and it is a positive one. More men have been going to the doctor to get colonoscopies to screen for cancer since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reduced the Medicare copay for preventive tests – as shown by a recent study. However, the new ACA rate change has not changed the rate of women screening for cancer via colonoscopy.

Last month, Health Affairs, an esteemed health policy and research journal, published a study that compared the rates of colorectal cancer screening tests among patients aged 66 to 75 years, before and after the ACA law passed in 2010. The following year, in 2011, the law waived the Medicare Part B deductible, which totaled $147 annually in 2015, and eliminated the part of the coverage that required beneficiaries to cover 20 percent of the cost for colonoscopies used for screening.

The study revealed that among men colonoscopy screenings went up from 18 percent to 22 percent following the Affordable Care Act. For women, however, the screening rate stayed at 18 percent. This is not too surprising to researchers because women have a much lower risk of having colorectal cancer than men, so it is understandable that they would assess their risk differently be more lax with going in for screening. Although, they do strongly encourage all women to undergo this screening anyway. Overall, screening rates are too low for all adults, with only 40 percent of American adults being up-to-date on colorectal cancer screenings.

Thanks to the ACA, services that are recommended by the United States Preventative Services Task Force are fully covered without Medicare beneficiaries having to pay a copay out-of-pocket. The Task Force says that people between the ages of 50 and 75-years-old should get screened for colorectal cancer via stool testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. Women prefer stool testing as a screening method, studies show.

Colorectal cancer screening is an important thing that should not be shelved. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths (that affect both men and women) in the United States. The colonoscopy is a preferred screening method because it is high effective at locating polyps and removing them. Although most polyps are benign, it is good to remove them before they can become malignant.