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Legislation introduced to provide Medicare recipients with annual Pap screening.

Efforts are underway to allow all women Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age or cancer risk, to receive annual screening Pap smears and pelvic examinations. Legislation (HR 4571) introduced by Reps. Clay Shaw, Jr., (R-FL) and Karen Thurman (D-FL), would require Medicare to cover the cost of these tests for all female recipients.

Under current law, only women who meet one of several high-risk criteria or who are of childbearing age and have had an abnormal Pap test in the past 36 months are eligible for annual coverage. All others are limited to one exam every 3 years. This is a "disincentive for many elderly women on fixed incomes to seek these tests annually," says Rep. Shaw.

In addition, Reps. Shaw and Thurman believe women on Medicare deserve to have the same chance for early detection of reproductive cancer as men. Men receive the PSA test every year to detect prostate cancer. "With more than 40% of all cervical cancer deaths occurring in women over the age of 65, it only makes sense to provide annual exams," he added.

The College of American Pathologists has worked closely with Reps Shaw and Thurman in developing the legislation. In addition, CAP has spearheaded a public education campaign to encourage and motivate women to get Pap tests annually. To that end, CAP has established a Web site (, through which women can register to receive annual e-mail reminders to schedule their Pap tests.

CAP President Paul Bachner, MD, FCAP, voiced the association's strong support for the measure, saying, "this legislation offers an important opportunity to reduce the rate of cervical cancer beyond that already achieved through widespread use of the Pap test over the past century." He urged Congress "to pass it and expand access to this life-saving test."

Capitol Hill observers say, however, with the end of the congressional session rapidly drawing near, the measure will only pass if it is part of a larger health bill.
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Author:Szabo, Joan
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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