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News In Brief

Health care reform makes booming business of screening tests

Gregory Warner Aug 17, 2010

I reported a story today on Marketplace about some changes coming in January to your health insurance thanks to health care reform. Insurance providers will no longer be able to charge you a co-pay when you go in for certain screening tests.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has published a complete list of all the screening tests that insurers will have to cover in full. And more tests could be added to the list in 2014.
Some highlights include:

High Blood Pressure: Screening in adults aged 18 and older.
Breast Cancer: Mammography for women with or without clinical breast examination (CBE), every 1 to 2 years for women aged 40 and older.
Cervical Cancer: recommends screening in women who have been sexually active.
Cholesterol: Screening for men 35 and older, and women 45 and older.
Depression: Screening for adults and adolescents when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place to assure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and follow-up.
Diabetes: Screening for Type 2 diabetes in adults with elevated blood pressure.
Hearing Loss: Screening in newborns.
Obesity: Screen all adult patients.

Colon Cancer test as a case study

My story today focuses on one of those tests included in the list: the colonoscopy. That test is America’s most popular colorectal cancer screening test, despite its costs, its arduous prep (I know this first hand), and – as I learned from scientists – the lack of any strong clinical evidence of its effectiveness vs older cheaper screening tests.

This is also a story about how the test shot to popularity, thanks to a young epidemiologist, and built a big business along the way. In just over 20 years, it has become one of the most popular screening tests in America.

Prevention at a personal level

During our reporting we met Patricia Covington, who tells us about her decision to get a colonoscopy in the video below. She was kind enough to talk to us shortly after waking up from sedation. Marketplace’s Health Desk intern, Mara Zepeda, met Patricia while we were out reporting at the Burlington County Endoscopy Center in Lumberton, New Jersey.

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