Starting in January 2011, Medicare will cover screening tests for colorectal cancer at no charge to the beneficiary, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.
The Medicare program is not changing the frequency with which it covers these tests; that means that a screening colonoscopy generally will be covered once every 10 years. It will be covered once every two years if the patient has had colorectal cancer, has a family history of the disease or is at high risk for some other reason.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy will be covered once every four years to screen for cancer, and a fecal occult blood test will be covered annually. Medicare will continue to cover colonoscopies for beneficiaries over age 75, according to Donald McLeod, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.