Assembly Passes Bill to Expand Access to Colon Cancer Prevention

Legislation from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz would require health insurance companies to provide coverage for colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 45, consistent with the American Cancer Society guidelines

Albany, NY – The effort to combat colorectal cancer in New York has taken another step forward with the passage of legislation (A2085A) from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. The legislation aims to expand access to colorectal cancer screenings, which reduces the odds of being diagnosed with colon cancer from 1 in 17 to 1 in 100. Specifically, the bill would require that insurance providers include coverage for these screenings for everyone who is considered to be “average risk” by the American Cancer Society. This threshold is currently set at age 45 and preventative screenings include both lab tests and follow-up colonoscopies.

The issue of colon cancer risk among younger people was highlighted by the death of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman in 2020. Unfortunately, despite unequivocal medical evidence that preventative screenings have a significant benefit in reducing cancer fatalities, some insurance companies may not cover all types of preventative screenings or may pass those costs onto customers in the form of deductibles or other fees. This means that people are often asked to pay out-of-pocket for these procedures, often resulting in the deferral of colorectal cancer screenings until after treatment is less likely to be successful.

According to the American Cancer Society, most colorectal cancers start as a growth (polyp) on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Certain types of polyps are more likely to become cancerous, but these polyps are only discernable through the use of screening exams.

The legislation passed in the Assembly by a vote of 147-1 and is awaiting action by the State Senate.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx) said: “Countless studies have demonstrated that it is far more affordable and far more effective to catch cancer early, especially colorectal cancer. This legislation is low-hanging fruit – with immediate fiscal costs falling on multi-billion dollar insurance providers who ultimately should save money in the long-term due to the avoidance of later complications. I am very grateful to the advocates who helped fight for this bill to pass, and I am hopeful that the State Senate will follow suit before session ends.”

“Cancer screenings save lives.Sadly, African Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups. This legislation is an important step to reduce disparities in colorectal cancer mortality rates,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Senior New York Government Relations Director Julie Hart. “New Yorkers should not have to face the possibility of forgoing a possible life-saving colonoscopy because they do not have the resources to pay for it. We are grateful to Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz for his commitment to reducing disparities and fighting colorectal cancer.”

Annie Sariego, Market President, PE GI Solutions said: “On behalf of PE GI Solutions, I want to thank Assemblymember Dinowitz for his steadfast leadership and strong advocacy for this important piece of legislation. The bill is consistent with our goal to improve access to care and help in the fight to prevent, treat and ultimately cure colorectal cancer. Given the devastating impacts of the pandemic and resulting steep drop in compliance rates in cancer screenings, this bill could not come at a more critical time.”

Sabrina Mosseau, Executive Director of New York Oncology Hematology, said: “There are many factors including geographical, socio-economical, educational, cultural, and logistical barriers that prevent people in our local community from getting recommended cancer screenings and the care they need. This bill seeks to address one of the barriers to screening by requiring health insurers provide coverage for recommended CRC screening, including no co-pays for screenings following a positive DNA stool test. More cancer screenings, means earlier detection, which saves lives!”