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Impact of Health Insurance, Poverty, and Comorbidities on Colorectal Cancer Screening: Insights from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Gawron AJ, Staub J, Bielefeldt K. Impact of Health Insurance, Poverty, and Comorbidities on Colorectal Cancer Screening: Insights from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2021 Jan 1; 66(1):70-77.

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BACKGROUND: Despite national campaigns and other efforts to improve colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, participation rates remain below targets set by expert panels. We hypothesized that availability and practice patterns of healthcare providers may contribute to this gap. METHOD: Using data of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for the years between 2000 and 2016, we extracted demographic, socioeconomic, and health-related data as well as reported experiences about barriers to care, correlating results with answers about recent participation in colorectal cancer screening. As CRC screening guidelines recommend initiation of testing at age 50, we focused on adults 50 years or older. RESULTS: We included responses of 163,564 participants for the period studied. There was a significant increase in CRC screening rates over time. Comorbidity burden, poverty, race, and ethnicity independently predicted participation in screening. Lack of insurance coverage and cost of care played an important role as reported barrier. Convenient access to care, represented by availability of appointments beyond typical business hours, and frequency of provider interactions, correlated with higher rates of screening. CONCLUSION: Our data show a positive effect of educational efforts and healthcare reform with coverage of screening. Easy and more frequent access to individual providers predicted a higher likelihood of completed screening tests. This finding could translate into more widespread implementation of screening programs, as the increasingly common virtual care delivery offers a new and convenient option to patients.

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