Welcome! My guests today are Catherine McMahon and Anna Howard. Catherine provides in-depth analysis for legislative and regulatory priorities for all levels of government and develops public policy principles for cancer prevention. Anna helps develop public policy principles in issues related to healthcare coverage for individuals with cancer. She is also the consumer representative for the National Association for Insurance Commissioners.
Catherine and Anna are here to help listeners understand the resources available for those diagnosed with cancer and for those whose loved ones have been diagnosed. People over 65 account for 65% of all new malignancies and about 70% of cancer deaths in the US. Listening to this podcast will help you understand how to use Medicare benefits in the best ways to prevent cancer.
- What is the Cancer Action Network, and what does it do? The CAN is the nonprofit, advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society that supports legislative solutions to defeat cancer. One purpose is to give patients and their families a voice in government. There is a federal lobbying team in Washington, DC and staff in every state working on the local level. The CAN works to prevent cancer and to help patients find access to care. (The complete abbreviation is ACSCAN.)
- Why are preventive services so important? Screening tests, counseling, and preventive medications work together to prevent illness before symptoms occur. 50% of cancers can be prevented with these services, including tobacco cessation screening, obesity screenings, and cancer screenings to detect early stage cancer. The ACS has made cancer prevention a top priority.
- What is the function of the US Preventive Services Task Force? The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary panel of national experts in preventive medicine. Their clinical recommendations will become the appropriate insurance coverage for preventive services.
- What preventive services does Medicare cover for cancer screenings? The USPSTF updates their recommendations periodically, but currently, an initial physical exam and annual physical exams are covered. Some of the screenings are a colorectal exam, lung cancer screening, breast and cervical cancer screening. To be eligible for the lung cancer screening, a patient must by 55-77 years old and be either currently smoking or have quit smoking in the last 15 years. They must have a “smoking history” such as a pack a day and have a written order from their doctor for the screening. A colonoscopy is another screening that is covered, but the problem occurs if the doctor removes polyps during the exam because that qualifies as surgery and will make the patient subject to out of pocket costs.
- What legislation is currently being introduced to Congress? The ACSCAN is pushing for new laws to include removal of polyps in screening exams instead of calling it “surgery.” The bill is called “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act and is HR 1220 in the House and S624 in the Senate. Listeners are encouraged to call their members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor and pass this legislation ASAP!
- What choices are available to Medicare beneficiaries? Patients can choose Traditional Medicare, Parts A, B, or D, or they can choose a Private Plan Option called Medicare Advantage. Over 30% of Medicare users choose an Advantage plan.
- What should you ask your doctor about screenings? First of all, take advantage of the annual wellness exam, but talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your heath and your medications.
- Visit www.acscan.org for information, tips, and fact sheets. You can find volunteer opportunities at www.cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345 to ask questions of the ACs 24/7. Check out these resources for the maximum use of your Medicare benefits!
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Find out more information about Medicare on Diane Daniel’s website!