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A national campaign to screen Medicare beneficiaries for colorectal cancer — the No. 2 cancer killer — was launched in March by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and HCFA are targeting people 50 and older in an early detection and prevention effort called Screen for Life.
As part of this program, beginning in July, Medicare will begin to cover screening colonoscopy every 10 years for people not at high risk for colorectal cancer. Medicare currently covers a:
• yearly take-home fecal-occult blood test with no co-pay or deductible;
• flexible sigmoidoscopy every four years (beneficiaries pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the annual Part B deductible);
• colonoscopy for high-risk individuals every two years (beneficiaries pay about 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the annual Part B deductible);
• barium enema as an alternative to either the sigmoidoscopy or the colonoscopy.
"We want our beneficiaries to know that Medicare covers four types of colorectal cancer screening tests," said Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "Medicare is encouraging every one of our beneficiaries to ask his or her doctor or health care professional for a colorectal screening test."