Bill Perkins Introduces Legislation Requiring Insurance Providers To Cover Preventive Screenings For Colon Cancer

Bill Perkins

May 07, 2007

In recognition of National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, State Senator Bill Perkins today announced that he has introduced legislation (S4450) to require insurance providers to provide diagnostic screenings for colorectal cancer (commonly referred to as “colon cancer”). Already 21 state including New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland have enacted similar legislation.

“Colon cancer can be successfully treated more than 90% of the time when detected early,” said Senator Perkins, a colon cancer survivor, “but unfortunately New York does not require insurance providers to cover screenings. New York should be in the forefront of providing accessible, life-saving health care. This legislation is step in the right direction.”

Colon cancer is the #2 cancer killer of men and women in the U.S. There are approximately 145, 000 new cases of colon cancer and 56,000 deaths in the US each year. Colon cancer can be successfully treated more than 90% of the time when detected early.

African-Americans have the highest incidence rate of colon cancer of any racial or ethnic group and are 30% more likely to die from it than others. Colon cancer is estimated to have killed about 7,080 African Americans in 2005. In addition, according to studies issued by the American College of Gastroenterology, African Americans have earlier onset of the disease and should begin screening beginning at age 45 -- five years earlier than other people.

Perkins added, “Five years ago, I was first diagnosed with colon cancer. Lucky for me, the polyps were discovered early enough before they penetrated the colon and I was able to get the treatment I needed. The test not only saved my life, but also made me acutely aware just how important it is to make sure others also get screened – and to knock down barriers that are preventing some from doing it.”

According to a study by the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA), 47 states guarantee insurance coverage for breast cancer, but only 21 now require insurance providers to cover the cost of preventive screening for colorectal cancer, despite the fact that it is a highly preventable disease.

A May 2006 analysis by the American Cancer Society revealed significantly higher and faster rising colorectal cancer screening rates in states that have this legislation that covers the full range of colon cancer screenings. “The study - which looked at 11 states that passed legislation between 1999 and 2001 -- showed that from 1999 to 2001, the colon cancer screening rates were similar in all states. As the laws had time to take effect, the rates of screening rose significantly higher in states with coverage laws than states without such laws. By 2004, screening rates in states with coverage laws had risen 40 percent faster than the rates in states without such laws.”

In addition, according to report from the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), “early detection of colorectal cancer can have financial benefit as well; individual treatment cost is estimated at $30,000 for a patient with early detection, whereas the treatment cost for a patient who has developed late stage colorectal cancer is estimated at $120,000, depending upon the pharmaceuticals used in treatment."