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Medicare Covers Colonoscopies, But Screening Gap Persists

Age, race/ethnicity, gender, income affect likelihood of screening since expanded Medicare coverage

MONDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Although Medicare coverage of colonoscopy started in 2001 for those at average risk, there are still disparities in colon cancer screening among Medicare beneficiaries based on age, race/ethnicity, gender and income, according to the results of a study published in the Feb. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Joan M. Neuner, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, examined the rates of colorectal cancer screening in 596,470 Medicare recipients at average risk in New York, Florida and Illinois in 2002 and 2003.

The researchers found that 18.3 percent of beneficiaries had undergone a screening test. Non-whites were less likely to be screened than whites (relative risk, 0.52). Whites living in higher income areas were more likely to be screened (RR 1.19 for men, 1.09 for women), which was not the case for non-whites. Screening colonoscopy decreased with age, with a relative risk of 0.41 for men and 0.32 for women for the oldest recipients (at least 80 years old).

"Despite the expansion of Medicare coverage for colorectal cancer screening, there still remain significant disparities between sex and racial/ethnic groups in screening practices," Neuner and colleagues conclude.

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