Key Points

  • Insurance coverage for virtual colonoscopy improves colorectal cancer screening rates by nearly 50 percent, says new study
  • Finding supports USPSTF recommendations that more tests — including virtual colonoscopy —  be used to boost screening and save lives
  • Medicare should cover virtual colonoscopy for seniors

RESTON, VA — A study published July 11 in Radiology shows that insurance coverage for virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) improves colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates by almost 50 percent. This supports U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations that more tests – including virtual colonoscopy – be used to boost screening and save lives. Medicare should cover virtual colonoscopy for seniors.

The USPSTF assigned an “A” grade to virtual colonoscopy and other CRC screening exams. Federal law mandates that private insurers cover these exams with no copay. Most already do. Yet, Medicare does not.

“Medicare coverage of virtual colonoscopy would boost screening and save lives. It would help many seniors avoid extensive treatment and reduce costs. Virtual colonoscopy can both prevent cancer and detect cancer. Medicare should cover these exams,” said Judy Yee, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Colon Cancer Committee.

Valid questions about virtual colonoscopy have been answered.

• It is an American Cancer Society recommended screening exam.
• Prior studies in the U.S. and Europe show the test boosts screening rates where offered.
• Studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere show it is as accurate as regular colonoscopy in those at average CRC risk. This is most people.
• It is less expensive than colonoscopy.
• A study of Medicare-aged patients shows no short- or long-term complications from virtual colonoscopy.

Medical societies and patient advocates support coverage for virtual colonoscopy and the other USPSTF-endorsed tests. These include the American Cancer Society, the ACR, American Gastroenterological Association, Colon Cancer Alliance and Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in men and women. It is most often diagnosed in those ages 65–74. Yet, at least a third of those 50 and older who should be screened choose not to be tested. Medicare coverage for virtual colonoscopy would offer an attractive, less-invasive option to help solve this problem.

For more information on virtual colonoscopy visit RadiologyInfo.org/VirtualCT.

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About the American College of Radiology
The American College of Radiology (ACR), founded in 1924, is a professional medical society dedicated to serving patients and society by empowering radiology professionals to advance the practice, science and professions of radiological care.