Californians Will Now Have Coverage For The Full Spectrum Of Colorectal Cancer Screening, Including The Necessary Colonoscopy Following A Positive Non-Invasive Screening Test.

Eligible Californians will now have increased access to colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, per AB 342, a new state law that removes out-of-pocket costs for patients needing colonoscopies after positive non-invasive CRC screening tests, such as, Stool DNA or fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This makes California the latest of eight states across the nation to remove this financial barrier to lifesaving screening.  

In 2021, it’s estimated that over 15,000 Californians will receive a CRC diagnosis, and an estimated 5,300 will die from the disease—a number that does not reflect the backlog in screenings as a result of COVID-19. However, by increasing access to CRC screening, advocates of the new law hope to see a decrease in these numbers.

“This law addresses healthcare disparities and is the first step in getting all patients the screening they need at no cost,” said Spencer Dayton of Lodi, Ca., who was diagnosed with stage IV CRC at age 23 and serves as a Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) ambassador. “This will help remove a financial barrier for patients who need a colonoscopy after positive non-invasive screening. I am thankful to Asm. Mike Gipson and his team for addressing this issue and for Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing the bill. Next, we make screening free for all across the country--not just here in California."

CRC is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined in the U.S., as well as in California. Additionally, incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer are highest among Black and Native American men and women. CRC is one of the few cancers where screening may prevent the majority of cancers from developing, and multiple screening options are available to patients. This legislation ensures that patients can choose the best option for them and will help increase access to screening in underserved communities. 

The California Colorectal Cancer Coalition (C4) and Fight CRC worked closely with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and Assembly member Gipson, the author of AB 342, as well as Senators Lena Gonzalez, Susan Rubio, and Scott Wiener to assure passage in the Assembly and Senate before the bill was signed into law by Gov. Newsom on October 1, 2021. 

“With this law going into effect, California is leading the way in increasing access to CRC screening,” said Fight CRC President, Anjee Davis. “It is more important, now than ever, that we remove barriers to this lifesaving screening. California serves as an example to other states of how to take an important step forward. Fight CRC is grateful to all the incredible CRC advocates in California who worked tirelessly to see this critical legislation become law. This policy will save lives.”

“(C4) is a proud cosponsor of AB 342, legislation that removes the ability of insurance companies to charge co-pays and deductibles in the screening process for CRC,” said C4 President Board of Directors, Daniel S. Anderson, MD, FACP. “Many Californians over the age of 45 want to be effectively screened for CRC at home by mailing in a stool sample. This effective method of screening was especially useful during the pandemic. Before the passage of AB 342, if a patient received a positive result from a stool test, insurance companies were charging co-pays and deductibles for the needed follow-up colonoscopy.  Removing this cost-sharing has been shown to increase CRC screening and will prevent Californians from suffering and dying from CRC.”

C4 was a recipient of Fight CRC’s Catalyst-State-by-State Advocacy Program, which supports state policy efforts to increase access to CRC screening. The legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2022.