Changes in Receipt of Cancer Screening in Medicare Beneficiaries Following the Affordable Care Act

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) removed copayments for screening mammography and colonoscopy in Medicare beneficiaries, but its clinical impact is unknown.


Using a 5% random sample of Medicare claims from 2009 through 2012 in individuals age 70 years or older who were due for screening, we examined claims for screening mammography and screening or surveillance colonoscopy for two years prior to ACA (2009–2010) and two years post-ACA (2011–2012). Receipt of the procedures at the patient level was compared across years using generalized estimating equations. Statistical tests were two-sided.


Compared with 2009, we found an increase in mammography uptake during the ACA coverage period, with multivariable odds ratios (MOR) of 1.22 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.20 to 1.25, P < .001) for 2011 and 1.17 (95% CI = 1.15 to 1.20, P < .001) for 2012 and less change in 2010 (OR = 1.03, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.05, P = .01). In contrast to mammography, uptake of screening or surveillance colonoscopy decreased in 2012 (MOR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.92 to 0.98, P = .002) compared with 2009, with no change in 2010 (MOR = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.99 to 1.04, P = .47) or 2011 (MOR = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.99 to 1.04, P = .34). Other factors associated with procedure receipt included younger age and prior preventive health visits. In an analysis restricted to patients age 70 to 74 years, colonoscopy use increased slightly in 2011 but was unchanged in 2012, and the findings by year for mammography were consistent with the main analysis.


Following ACA implementation with concomitant reduction in out-of-pocket expenditures, there was a statistically significant increment in mammography uptake but not colonoscopy. This suggests that affordability is a necessary but not sufficient facilitator of preventive services.

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