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Self-administered colon cancer screening produces effective results for Highmark Medicare Advantage members

Highmark Inc.

PITTSBURGH (March 18, 2015) — Preventive care is critical to maintaining good health. This is especially true when it comes to colorectal cancer. Regular screenings can often find the cancer early and, for many people, can actually prevent it altogether, according to the American Cancer Society. Recognizing the importance of preventive care, Highmark provides a self-administered colon cancer screening option at no cost to its Medicare Advantage members. This is offered through the Highmark House Call Program, which gives members the opportunity to receive a free in-home health assessment from a medical professional in the comfort of their own homes.

Better known as a FIT (fecal immunochemical test) Kit, this screening is viewed as a more convenient option for members because they are able to complete it in their own homes. The FIT detects blood in the stool, which is often an indicator of lower gastrointestinal disorders that should be further treated. Once the sample is collected by the member, the test can then be mailed to a laboratory so the results can be processed. If the results are positive, further testing, such as a colonoscopy, will then be needed. While the FIT is effective in finding blood in the stool, members should still have a colonoscopy every ten years because it finds such health issues as ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

It's currently estimated that the average colon cancer treatment cost for a Medicare Advantage patient is approximately $30,000. While the cost is high, preventive care can play a critical role in decreasing it.

"Providing care during the earliest stages of an illness is not only less expensive, but the success rate of treatment during this time is also more significant," said Donald R. Fischer, M.D., Highmark's senior vice president and chief medical officer. "By receiving routine health exams, like the FIT screening, seniors can stay healthier and avoid or delay the onset of illness down the road."

Through Highmark's preventive outreach in 2014, including the House Calls in-home assessments and other campaigns, more than 4,700 members completed FIT screenings. Furthermore, a recent survey of 93 Highmark members who completed a FIT assessment after participating in a Highmark House Call and receiving a "high alert" outcome found that 96 percent followed up with their primary care physician and 51 percent received a colonoscopy. More than two-thirds of the colonoscopies resulted in some action being taken and 21 percent resulted in a diagnosis of a condition. This survey was completed by Matrix Medical Network, one of the national organizations Highmark partnered with in 2014 to perform House Calls.

"Although a newly diagnosed condition can be extremely challenging for our members, being able to identify the issue early on helps us to connect them with the care they need so they can achieve successful health outcomes," Fischer said.

In addition to the Highmark House Call Program, many physician offices also offer FIT Kits, so Highmark Medicare Advantage members can ask their primary care physician about how they can receive one and where the results can be processed.

About Highmark Inc.

Highmark Inc. is among the largest health insurers in the United States and the fourth-largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated company. Highmark and its diversified businesses and affiliates operate health insurance plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia that serve 5.3 million members. Its diversified health businesses serve group customer and individual health needs across the United States through dental insurance, vision care and other related health businesses. Highmark is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

For more information, contact:
Adrienne Baldini
Highmark Inc. (Pennsylvania)
412-544-4369
adrienne.baldini@highmarkhealth.org
For more information, contact:
Kristy Cramlet
Highmark Inc. (West Virginia)
304-424-9888
kristy.cramlet@highmarkhealth.org