Medicare patients more likely to get breast, colorectal cancer screenings

Researchers found that once joining Medicare, patients are 50% more likely to get health screenings for breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Patients with other undiagnosed diseases, such as depression, COPD, type 2 diabetes, lung or prostate cancer, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, are also more likely to discover their condition in their first year of being on Medicare coverage.

The report, by Epic Research, reviewed more than 20 million patients between the ages of 60 and 70 to see whether diagnoses occurred more frequently.

Breast cancer screening rates jump from 15.3% to 30.4%, while colorectal cancer screening rates increase from 4.8% to 11%.

Screenings for ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancers have been shown to reduce deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required insurance companies to cover preventative care screenings, improvements on screening rates for people under private insurance plans have increased modestly.

Previous studies suggested that cancer screenings are more common at age 65, the same age people are eligible for Medicare.

For hypertension, the diagnosis rate for a patient during the first year of Medicare was 18.9%, compared to 5% for an individual five years before starting Medicare. Type 2 diabetes diagnoses jumped from 7.7% to 10.4% in the same time period.

However, some conditions like dementia, chronic kidney disease, heart failure and arthritis have noticeable symptoms that might prompt medical care before Medicare coverage takes effect, so the diagnosis rate declines steadily with age and does not correlate with Medicare coverage.

A recent study from Aflac found that one in four respondents miss routine checkups, while 40% of Generation Z respondents miss their typical checkups. However, 51% of respondents who said they had cancer found out following a routine checkup, emphasizing the importance of normal screenings.