News | May 12, 2009

Medicare Will Not Pay for "Virtual" Colonoscopy

May 12, 2009 - Medicare, the U.S. federal health insurance plan for the elderly and disabled, will not pay for virtual colonoscopies, which check for colon cancer using scans.

"Evidence is inadequate to conclude" that virtual colonoscopies, also known as CT colonography, are an appropriate colorectal cancer screening test for Medicare patients, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday in a statement on its website.

The decision finalizes a February proposal from CMS.

Colonoscopies can detect colon cancer early, while it can still be treated or even cured, and usually involve using a camera threaded up through the rectum and into the colon. People find the procedure embarrassing and uncomfortable and some studies have shown using an external scan can be nearly as effective.

But a doctor doing a colonoscopy can also remove pre-cancerous lesions on the spot. If growths are seen using a scan, the patient must then undergo a colonoscopy anyway. Insurers rarely pay for "virtual" colonoscopies.

New Hampshire-based iCAD Inc is one company providing computer-aided detection or CT colonography equipment.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Maggie Fox; Editing by Richard Chang)

SOURCE: Reuters

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