What Happened to Disparities in CRC Screening Among FFS Medicare Enrollees Following Medicare Modernization?

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2019 Apr;6(2):273-291. doi: 10.1007/s40615-018-0522-x. Epub 2018 Sep 19.


The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, implemented in 2006, increased managed care options for seniors. It introduced insurance plans for prescription drug coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries, whether they were enrolled in FFS or managed care (Medicare Advantage) plans. The availability of drug coverage beginning in 2006 served to free up budgets for FFS Medicare enrollees that could be used to make copayments for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening using endoscopy (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy). In 2007, Medicare eliminated the copayments required by seniors for CRC screening by endoscopy. Later in 2008, CRC screening by colonoscopy became part of the gold standard for CRC screening. This legitimized its use and offered even further encouragement to seniors, who may have been reluctant to undergo the procedure because of the non-pecuniary risks associated with it. In addition, 37 CRC screening interventions occurred during this timeframe to enhance compliance with screening standards. Using multilevel analysis of individuals' endoscopy utilization, derived from 100% FFS Medicare claims, along with county-level market and contextual factors, we compare the periods before and after the MMA (2001-2005 to 2006-2009) to determine whether disparities in the utilization of endoscopic CRC screening occurred or changed over the decade. We examined Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics relative to Whites, and Females relative to Males (with race or ethnicity combined). We examined each state separately for evidence of disparities within states, to avoid confounding by geographic disparities. We expected that the net effect of the policy changes and the targeted interventions over the decade would be to increase CRC screening by endoscopy, reducing disparities. We saw improvements over time (reduced disparities relative to Whites) for Blacks and Hispanics residing in several states, and improvements over time for Females relative to Males in many states. For the vast majority of states, however, disparities persisted with Whites and Males exhibiting greater rates of utilization than other groups. States that undertook the interventions were more likely to have had improvements in disparities or positive disparities for women and minorities. While some gains were made over this time period, the gains were unevenly distributed across the USA and more work needs to be done to reduce remaining disparities.

Keywords: Age disparities; CRC screening; Disparities; Gender disparities; Geographic disparities; Racial/ethnic disparities.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Colonoscopy / trends*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Cost Sharing
  • Early Detection of Cancer / trends
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Fee-for-Service Plans
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Healthcare Disparities / trends
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Medication Therapy Management
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • United States