Free Cancer Screening Expands In Colorado

Colorectal Exams Could Be Free To Both Uninsured, Underinsured

Some 4,000 uninsured and underinsured Coloradans will get free colon cancer screenings through a University of Colorado Denver program, thanks to state funding.

The Colorado Colorectal Screening Program (CCSP) at the University of Colorado Cancer Center plans to screen more than 800 underinsured and 3,200 uninsured Coloradoans for colorectal cancer over the next year with funds from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grants Program.

“Some people have insurance, but the co-pay, coinsurance or deductible they’d need to pay to get a colonoscopy is too high for them to afford the screening test,” said Dr. Holly Wolf, program director. “Starting this month, our program will pay for the cost of the colonoscopy, and, if needed, the person’s insurance company will provide coverage for any follow-up treatment."

The grant is roughly $7.4 million, a 25 percent increase over 2008 levels, Wolf said.

“What this does is expand the program to a group of people that we couldn’t screen before. There are probably 7 to 10,000 people in that category statewide,” Wolf said.

A total of 63 medical clinics will offer the colonoscopy procedures to search for, and remmove, pre-cancerous polyps.

“I think that it’s fantastic. I’m delighted that Colorado is leading the country with this program," Wolf said, noting she's been helping other states organize a similar screening effort.

Wolf said the program attempts to decrease the colorectal cancer rate, the second highest cause of cancer death among men and women, but is one of the only cancer types that can be prevented and cured through screening, along with cervical cancer.

With the expansion of the program that began in 2006, people age 50 and older that are below 250 percent of the federal poverty level could receive free screenings.

For a family of four, the income threshold is roughly $55,125.

Southern Colorado will also benefit through a new partnership with San Luis Valley Medical Center’s Carefree Colon Program.

“The Carefree Colon Program has done an excellent job during the past three years screening about 150 people per year,” Wolf said. “Together, we should be able to double that number.”

CCSP will also become the care provider for Colorado’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstration program for increasing the number of people screened for colorectal cancer each year.

If interested, call 1-866-227-7914.