Economic Recession Linked to Inadequate Colon Cancer Screening

A study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology revealed that the economic recession has affected the capability of Americans to undergo colonoscopies.  The loss of health insurance and other economic factors have discouraged people from getting screened.  The study was done at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) – Chapel Hill.

Research indicated that from December ‘07 to June ‘09, an estimated 500,000 fewer patients with commercial medical health insurance failed to undergo recommended screening for colon cancer.  This time frame was established by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-profit research authority on recessions dating.
In addition, a study of people between the ages 50 and 64 found a connection between out of pocket expenses for colonoscopy procedures and whether patients would follow through with their doctors’ recommendations for screening.  Those who were spending high out-of-pocket expenses because they were without insurance did not follow doctors’ orders during the recessional times.

Spencer Dorn, MD, MPH also noted that the gap between those patients who got screened with colonoscopies and those patients who did not had been narrowing before the recession. But after the hit, the gap widened again. Dorn is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at UNC. He headed the team of researchers and investigated data about more than 100 U.S. health plans entered into the IMS LifeLink Health Plan Claims Database. He said that this group represented commercial plans only and excludes Medicare and Medicaid.

According to Dr. Dorn, findings of the study suggest a close link between use of health care and larger socioeconomic factors. When faced with economic and financial insecurity, people who were otherwise healthy and insured may be unable to afford cancer screening with colonoscopy, or may perceive the overall procedure to be less crucial than competing for other resources such as market jobs.

Furthermore, results also show that there has been a growth in cost-sharing for preventive health care procedures.  Some plans require female patients to pay additional $10 to $20 co-pays for screening tests like mammography. In light of this, people are looking for ways to reduce cost of colorectal cancer examination.

Recent health care reform has taken away Medicare and Medicaid co-pays and deductions for all screening tests recommended by the federal government, which includes colon cancer examination.  Researchers recommended that commercial health plans follow the government changes in order to make way for reduced cost-sharing. To learn more about the importance of colonoscopy in preventative health care, find a colonoscopy doctor, a doctor who specializes in treating digestive diseases.