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Colorectal cancer screening rates on rise among Medicare beneficiaries due to expansion of coverage
Date:5/3/2011

HOUSTON (May 2, 2011) Colorectal cancer screening rates increased for Medicare beneficiaries when coverage was expanded to average-risk individuals, but racial disparities still exist, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

"Despite the expansion of Medicare coverage for colorectal cancer screening, disparities persisted among the ethnic groups we examined," said Arica White, Ph.D., M.P.H., former doctoral student at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of UTHealth. In 1998, Medicare began covering fecal occult blood test (FOBT) annually and sigmoidoscopy coverage every 4 years for average-risk beneficiaries and in July 2001 coverage was expanded to include colonoscopy for average-risk beneficiaries every 10 years.

The research is published in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

"Screening rates are significantly lower among racial/ethnic minorities and this study tells us expansion in screening coverage does not necessarily lead to reduction or elimination of disparities among ethnic populations," said White. Researchers found Hispanics were less likely to receive screening after colonoscopy coverage was expanded, and blacks were less likely than whites to get screened during the periods prior to FOBT coverage, during FOBT coverage-only and after colonoscopy coverage, according to the study. White believes this is the first study to use Medicare claims data to examine the impact of the change in Medicare policy on disparities in guideline-specific colorectal cancer screening from prior to FOBT coverage to after colonoscopy coverage.

Differences in screening rates may be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status, health beliefs and health education as well as healthcare access. "These differences should not exist within a population that is universally insured," said White. "We need to identify and address t
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Contact: Jade Waddy
jade.waddy@uth.tmc.edu
713-500-3307
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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