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State House bill would make underinsured eligible for colon cancer screenings

Bill approved by committee

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 14, 2016) — A state House bill approved today by a committee would allow underinsured Kentuckians who meet accepted guidelines to receive colon cancer screenings under a bill headed to the House floor.

House Bill 115, sponsored by House Health and Welfare Committee Chair Tom Burch (D-Louisville) would expand current law that limits screenings under the state’s Colon Cancer Screening Program to uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50-64 or uninsured persons deemed at high risk for the disease. Eligibility would be based on current American Cancer Society screening guidelines.

The bill would also require the Department of Public Health, which oversees the program, to adopt income-based fees that may be charged for the screenings. Other treatment could be provided with available funding.

“This is primarily going to remain a screening program,” said gastroenterologist and Colon Cancer Prevention Project founder Dr. Whitney F Jones, M.D.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington) voted in favor of the bill but said he is concerned of its potential costs to taxpayers and the privately insured.

“This is the slippery slope we’re now traveling on where people who have private insurance have incurred such huge increases … in both premiums and copayment that now their access is greatly hampered,” he said. “I think we’re heading down a path that creates both an insurance premium issue and a subsidy issue.”

Rep. David Watkins (D-Henderson) also voted in favor of the bill, saying change is needed.

“We’re still one of the poorest health states in the nation, and we definitely need to make some changes,” said Watkins. “If we don’t change, we aren’t going to get any improvement.”