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Medicare's decision to expand coverage of colon cancer testing in the late 1990s and early 2000s resulted in improved screening rates, but disparities still exist among certain racial groups, a new study from the University of Texas has found.
In 1998, Medicare began covering annual fecal occult blood testing and in 2001 the agency decided to expand coverage to for colonoscopies every 10 years. After examining Medicare claims data, the researchers found that these moves did help increase overall colon cancer testing rates, but they benefit minorities less than whites.
African Americans and Hispanics still had lower colon cancer testing rates, even after the expanded coverage went into effect.
"Screening rates are significantly lower among racial [and] 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 Arica White, who led the study.
She added that government officials should place a greater emphasis on evidence-based strategies for helping more racial and ethnic minorities access testing.
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