New Medicare Benefits Focus on Prevention

Beginning January 1, Medicare recipients will no longer be required to pay a co-pay or deductible to receive screening colonoscopies as part of the Medicare Preventive Services program.

The best way to control rising health care costs is through prevention. If we can catch something early, before it requires surgery or becomes life-threatening, we can generally avoid large medical bills down the road.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, but it can also be the most preventable, treatable and beatable disease. The best defense is to find it early, often before you even notice any symptoms. A screening colonoscopy is the absolute best way to detect and prevent colorectal cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

During this painless procedure, a physician can find and remove colon polyps, or abnormal tissue growths in the colon. Most polyps are benign, meaning non-cancerous, but can develop into cancer over time. Nearly all colorectal cancers begin in polyps. By removing these growths before they become malignant, we can actually prevent cancer from developing.

Our gastroenterologists recommend everyone be screened at the age of 50, earlier if there is a family or personal history of cancer, and at regular intervals after that. For African-Americans, screening should begin at age 45.

By removing the co-pay and deductible, this important procedure becomes more affordable for Medicare patients. The Medicare Preventive Services program will make a variety of other tests available to Medicare enrollees without a co-pay or deductible as well. So check with your healthcare provider to see how you can stay healthy and save money in the New Year.