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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Mar;10(3):278-84. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2011.11.020. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

Impact of the 2008-2009 economic recession on screening colonoscopy utilization among the insured.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7080, USA.



Economic factors might affect the use of recommended preventative services. We sought to determine whether the recent severe economic recession was associated with diminished screening colonoscopy rates among an insured population and to assess the relationship between out-of-pocket (OOP) costs and screening colonoscopy use.


Administrative data from 106 health plans (IMS LifeLink Health Plan Claims Database) were analyzed to determine monthly rates of screening colonoscopies performed on beneficiaries ages 50 to 64 years between January 2005 and November 2007 (prerecession), as well as from December 2007 through June 2009 (recession). Segmented regression models were used to evaluate changes in screening colonoscopy rates, as well as the relationship between screening and OOP costs before and during the recession.


Compared with prerecession trends, during the recession screening colonoscopy rates decreased by 68.9 colonoscopies/1 million individuals per month (95% confidence interval, -84.6 to -53.1; P < .001). Application of study estimates to the entire US population indicated that during the recession, commercially insured patients aged 50 to 64 years underwent approximately 500,000 fewer screening colonoscopies. Compared with those with low OOP costs, those with high OOP procedure costs had lower rates of screening before and during the recession, and had a greater reduction in screening rates during the recession (P = .035).


During the recession of December 2007 to June 2009, insured individuals reduced their use of screening colonoscopy compared with the 2 years before the recession began. OOP costs were related inversely to screening use, especially during the recession. Policies to reduce cost sharing could increase adherence to recommended preventive services such as colonoscopy examinations.

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