Changes in Medicare help prevent cancers
When Medicare coverage expanded to include screening for colon cancer, early diagnosis and treatment also increased, according to a report by School of Medicine researchers in the December 20, 2006 issue of JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Medicare reimbursement rules first changed in 1998 to cover screening colonoscopies for patients at risk for colon cancer. In 2001 coverage was expanded to include all Medicare recipients. A team led by Cary P. Gross, M.D., associate professor of medicine, found that colonoscopies have increased by 600 percent since the first Medicare change. The percentage of patients diagnosed at an early stage increased from 22.5 percent to 25.5 percent since 1998; after 2001, that percentage rose to 26.3.
“These data strongly support initiatives to increase access to and use of screening colonoscopy, yet more work needs to be done, as many eligible patients still are not receiving appropriate screening for colorectal cancer,” Gross says.