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OK, I admit, that’s a pretty distasteful headline.  It could have been worse, though, couldn’t it?  No one likes to think about having a long tube inserted through their rectum up into their intestines, which is what it takes to look at the colon.  And that long tube is only part of the yucky story.  To be ready for the tube, you have to stop eating and create medically induced diarrhea by drinking vast quantities of sickly sweet goop.


So, if you’ve heard the messages about cutting your risk of colon cancer in half by going through the screening exam, managed to overcome your perfectly normal squeamishness and made an appointment, how much would you be willing to pay?  Would you be willing to pay $1000?


No, that’s not a typo.  Depending on your insurance plan and where you live, your co-payment alone could be nearly $1000.  Double that amount if you have a high deductible plan.  I don’t have the exact statistics on how many people actually hand over their credit cards and pay four figures to have their colon looked at, but I’m pretty sure it’s not very many people.


So what does all this have to do with women’s health?  Well, first of all, we have colons, too, and even though breast cancer rightly gets lots of attention as the most-common cancer among women, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer.  So if all it took was getting over our squeamishness, most women over 50 would have had their colons looked at.  But that high cost gets in the way.


Unfortunately, the same arithmetic applies to many other screening and preventive health services that women of all ages need.  Tried paying for an HPV vaccination lately?  That’s not cheap.  How about the co-pay on a mammogram?  Also not cheap.  And don’t get me started about the outrageously high co-pays for some brand name oral contraceptives.  Would you believe $40 a month? All of these co-payments get in the way of women receiving the services they need.


But we’re getting help removing these barriers to screening and preventive services.  Starting earlier this year, and continuing for the next 18 months or so, all health insurance plans will have to begin covering screening and preventive services with no extra fees.  That means no co-payment and no deductible.  The regulations covering services that are specific to women, such as screening for sexually transmitted infections testing pregnant women for diabetes and covering contraceptive counseling and services, don’t officially take effect until next August.


Watch for Raising Women’s Voices Countdown to Coverage campaign early next year to help you learn more about these new benefits and how you can take advantage of them.  In the meantime, the first wave of regulations apply to all new plans issued after August 1, 2011.  Guess what?  Your health insurance might already fully cover that colon cancer screening.  So what are you waiting for – go get that colon looked at.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

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