Colorectal Cancer Screening in a Nationwide High-deductible Health Plan Before and After the Affordable Care Act

Med Care. 2016 May;54(5):466-73. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000521.


Background: Little is known about the effect of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) elimination of out-of-pocket costs for preventive services. This policy likely reduced out-of-pocket colonoscopy costs most for high-deductible health plan (HDHP) members.

Objectives: Determine the ACA's impact on colorectal cancer screening among HDHP members.

Research design: Pre-post with comparison group, constructed before and after the ACA.

Subjects: We studied 2003-2012 administrative claims data of a large national health insurer. HDHP members had 1 year of low-deductible (≤$500) plan enrollment followed by 1 year of HDHP (≥$1000) enrollment after an employer-mandated switch; HDHP enrollment occurred fully after the ACA for 21,605 members and fully before the ACA for 106,609 members. We propensity score-matched contemporaneous low-deductible (≤$500) control group members to both the before-ACA and after-ACA HDHP groups. We examined the 1-year impact of the HDHP switch separately in the before-ACA and after-ACA study cohorts, then compared these changes to estimate ACA effects.

Measures: Overall colorectal cancer screening, colonoscopy, and fecal-occult blood testing annual rates.

Results: Before the ACA, colorectal cancer screening tests declined by 37/10,000 (-71, -4) among HDHP members versus controls; after the ACA, HDHP members experienced a nonsignificant increase in screening [+52/10,000 (-19,124)]. Corresponding changes in colonoscopy were -55/10,000 (-81, -29) before and +20/10,000 (-38, 78) after the ACA. Thus, the ACA was associated with increased colorectal cancer screening rates [+89/10,000 (11, 168); relative: +9.1% (0.5-17.8)] and screening colonoscopies [+75/10,000 (12-139); relative: +16.4% (2.5-30.3)] among HDHP members.

Conclusion: The ACA was associated with improved colorectal cancer screening among HDHP members.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colonoscopy / economics
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Deductibles and Coinsurance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / economics
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal / economics
  • Financing, Personal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors