To the Editor:
I am writing to publicly recognize Kentucky legislators who supported Senate Bill 96 and House Bill 162 in the 2008 legislative session. These bills require insurance companies to provide a health benefit for colon cancer testing. Gov. Steve Beshear signed these bills into law on April 15, 2008, and they are effective Jan. 1, 2009. Requiring insurance companies to provide for colon cancer screening will go a long way in helping reduce the impact of colon cancer in our state.
Also passed was House Bill 415, the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program. That bill provides for a statewide colon cancer screening program for the uninsured and an accompanying educational campaign to raise awareness among all Kentuckians. However, House Bill 415 was passed unfunded, so the next step is to secure funding for this vitally important program.
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Kentucky, killing nearly 900 people a year. However, it is also one of the most preventable cancers if diagnosed early. When detected early, the survival rate for colon cancer is around 90 percent. The later colon cancer is detected, the lower the survival rate.
Early detection could prevent most colon cancer deaths, but many people are not being tested. For some people, they simply cannot afford to be tested because they are uninsured or underinsured. More than 600,000 Kentuckians lack insurance and are therefore less likely to receive life-saving screening. In addition, Kentucky ranks worst in the nation in colon cancer mortality, which is simply unacceptable.
Our legislators and executive branch officials must step up and fund this program, which will unquestionably save lives. Please urge your legislators to vote for funding for the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program. Saving lives isn’t a political issue, it’s a public health issue.
Col. Luke Barlowe