House approves bill to encourage tests for colon cancer

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(Host) The House has given final approval to legislation that backers hope will encourage more, older Vermonters to be screened for colon cancer.  The vote on the bill was 105 to 35.

Under the legislation, individuals over the age of 50 would be able to have a colonoscopy once every ten years at a cost of no more than $25.

Jericho Representative George Till says the legislation is needed because roughly a third of all adults over 50 haven’t had the test.  He says studies indicate that ‘cost’ is a major factor for many of those people.

Till says the tests are an excellent way to detect colon cancer at an early stage:

(Till) "Those of us in the room and all Americans have a lifetime risk of colon cancer approximately 1 in 20-  if caught early patients with colorectal cancer have a 75 to 90% 5 year survival rate.  However in stage four the survival rate decreases to about 10%. Colorectal cancer screening is rather unique among cancer screening tests in its ability to not only diagnose cancer but also to actually prevent cancer."

(Host) But Northfield Representative Anne Donahue argued that there are other less expensive tests that are just as effective in detecting colon cancer and she thinks the bill represents poor public health policy:

(Donahue) "Why in the world would we want to encourage people and raise our insurance rates and damage what can happen to our public programs to pay for a test that in no way has been established to be any better than the low cost alternative? It’s like saying we should pay the pharmaceuticals for their new drugs when we have a generic that’s just as good."

(Host) The bill now moves to the Senate.

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