Policy

Ohio House bill would require health insurers to cover colerectal-cancer tests

A recently proposed bill in the Ohio House of Representatives would require health insurance plans to cover colorectal-cancer tests for people older than 50 or at a high risk for the disease.

A recently proposed bill in the Ohio House of Representatives would require health insurance plans to cover colorectal-cancer tests for people older than 50 or at a high risk for the disease.

The proposal, House Bill 451, was sponsored by Rep. Tom Letson, a second-term Democrat from Warren.

Under the proposal, health policies would have to cover the expense of colorectal examinations and lab tests for any “symptomatic” individuals, as well as those over the age of 50 or judged to be at high-risk for the disease based on generally accepted guidelines.

Letson didn’t return two calls.

The Ohio Association of Health Plans, a trade group representing health insurers, opposes the measure, according to Kelly McGivern, the group’s president. “We oppose the government mandating what coverage an individual should purchase,” she said.

Further, the Association of Health Plans objects to a clause in the bill that requires colorectal screenings to be performed under guidelines from the American Cancer Society. The group endorses the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force‘s guidelines, McGivern said.

“Colorectal” refers to cancer that starts in either the colon, the first four to five feet of the large intestine, or rectum, the large intestine’s last few inches. The National Cancer Institute estimates nearly 50,000 U.S. deaths last year from colorectal cancer. Doctors don’t know what causes colorectal cancer but risk factors for the disease include being over the age of 50, having a family history of cancer, eating a diet high in fat and smoking.

Tests for colorectal cancer include the fecal occult blood test and colonoscopy, in which a doctor examines inside the rectum and colon using a long, lighted tube. Depending on the cancer’s stage, treatment options include surgery, drugs or radiation.

Letson is chairman of the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee, and vice chair of the Insurance Committee.