The Colonoscopy Switcheroo: Quirks Of ‘Free’ Preventive Care

Arelis Gomes points out the free preventive care information in her Health Care for All brochure.

Don’t miss today’s incisive report by WBUR’s Martha Bebinger on when free preventive care is not free preventive care. That is, the federal health overhaul aimed to make much preventive care free, from check-ups to screening tests, but that’s not always how it plays out in practice. And sometimes you only find out when you get the bill or are asked for the co-pay.

The Web version is here and the full script is below, but I just wanted to highlight the part that really blows my mind: As one Massachusetts woman was horrified to discover, it’s possible to go in for a free — because it’s preventive — colonoscopy, but then while you’re still on the table, if the doctor finds polyps and removes them, that transforms it into a non-preventive — and thus billable to you — “surgical procedure.” Not to pick nits, but doesn’t polyp removal prevent colon cancer?

WBUR's Martha Bebinger

We have a story you might want to file under Consumer Beware. The new federal health care law makes dozens of preventive tests free for patients. Doctors or hospitals are not supposed to charge patients anything for an annual check-up, most screening tests and a dozen other services such as tobacco. This provision of the law began taking effect, as you renewed your coverage, more than a year ago. But as WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports…there is still confusion about how it works.

Arelis Gomes, an outreach coordinator for the consumer group, Health Care for All, spends her days deciphering and explaining the federal Affordable Care Act or ACA. For more than a year now, she’s been telling consumers that they will no longer have to pay anything for preventive care. So Gomes says she couldn’t believe it when she arrived a few weeks ago for her annual check-up and the receptionist asked Gomes for her co-pay. Continue reading