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News Release
Release Date: October 4, 2000

Rebecca Schwaab, ext. 7502
Denise Bell, ext. 7106
Carl Graziano, ext. 7118


CAP Applauds Action to Expand Medicare Pap Test Coverage

Washington, D.C.- On Tuesday, October 3, 2000, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee adopted key language from a bill originally introduced by Reps. E. Clay Shaw, Jr., R-Fla. and co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Fla., that would expand annual Pap test and pelvic examination coverage to all Medicare women.

"We are excited about the adoption of this important language by the Health Subcommittee. We especially want to thank Reps. Bill Thomas, R-Cal, Chair of the Health Subcommittee, Clay Shaw and Karen Thurman for their leadership." said CAP President Paul Bachner, MD, FCAP. "This is the first step to making annual Pap tests and pelvic examinations a reality for all women."

The College of American Pathologists (CAP) played a key role in the introduction of the original bill and worked closely with Rep. Shaw to construct the language of the "Providing Annual Pap Smears to Save Women's Lives Act of 2000." The CAP has long championed improved access to Pap tests for all women to help increase early detection and prevention of cervical cancer and thus, dramatically increase survival rates. Last year, the College was instrumental in the successful passage of legislation that improved Medicare payment for the test and ensured its availability in local communities.

Medicare currently provides annual coverage, but only for 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. For women who do not meet the criteria, Medicare only covers a Pap test once every three years. Shaw's bill expands annual Pap test and pelvic examination coverage to all women in Medicare, regardless of their age or cancer risk. The majority of private insurers cover annual Pap tests for all women. "We urge Congress to follow suit and take this important opportunity to help reduce the rate of cervical cancer beyond that already achieved through widespread use of the Pap test over the past half century," said Dr. Bachner.

"Women on Medicare deserve to have the same chance for early detection of reproductive cancer as younger women," Rep. Shaw said. "With more than 40 percent of all cervical cancer deaths occurring in women older than 65, it only makes sense to provide annual exams."

The College of American Pathologists advocates that, in general, all women who are or have been sexually active, or have reached 18 years of age, should have an annual Pap test and pelvic examination.

The CAP has spearheaded a public education campaign to encourage and motivate women to get Pap tests annually and to promote the benefits of this lifesaving screening test in the fight against cancer. To encourage women to get this lifesaving test, the College has established, a website through which women can register to receive annual e-mail reminders to schedule their Pap tests.

No cancer screening test in medical history has proved as effective for early detection of cancer as the Pap test. Since its introduction shortly after World War II, death rates from cervical cancer have decreased 70 percent in the United States. But despite the Pap test's unparalleled record of success, thousands of American women still fail to have an annual Pap examination. Studies show that of those women who die of cervical cancer, 80 percent had not had a Pap test in the five years preceding their deaths.

The CAP is a medical society serving nearly 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world's largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The CAP is an advocate for high quality and cost-effective patient care.

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