Colonoscopy Controversy Continued

I blogged and did an Authentic Medicine Moment Video on the subject of insurance companies not paying for screening colonoscopies if a polyp is removed. Hit the link to review.  I received this email from an insurance manager who allowed me to share it with you.  My response follows but I would love your thoughts on this subject as well.


Dr. Farrago,

I usually agree with you, but today I have to say I do not agree with your take on calling the insurance companies “scam” companies regarding colonoscopies.  You are correct that healthcare reform requires preventive colonoscopies to be paid at 100%.  And you are correct that if a polyp is removed it becomes diagnostic and is not paid at 100%. However, the issue is not the insurance company.  The issue is the procedure code.  The procedure codes need to be updated.

These colonoscopy claims are automated claims.  A computer either sees the code for a preventive colonoscopy or it sees the code for a diagnostic colonoscopy.  The computer has now way of knowing that a preventive colonoscopy turned into a diagnostic colonoscopy.  The gastroenterologist’office staff simply codes the procedure as whatever it turned out to be and submits to the insurance company.

There is no claims person at the insurance company gleefully adjudicating the claim as diagnostic so that someone has to pay a deductible.

This is a simple problem with a simple fix.  This is not an insurance company generated problem nor is it something that they can fix.  It all turns on the procedure codes and how they are used.

I am an insurance agent and this is ONE of the things I discuss in EVERY enrollment meeting.  The mammogram is the other one.  If it is a screening mammogram it is paid at 100% however if the doctor suspects something it is not.  I warn all of my insureds about these pitfalls that healthcare reform has created.

There are many more pitfalls, not the least of which are higher premiums and the inability to sell individual policies to children in my statethanks to “Obamacare”.

Thank you for everything you do!



Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  You do make some great points but there is a bigger picture here.   I understand how the procedure codes are “computerized” but I truly believe that some higher ups in your industry knew that this would happen.  And I agree, the grunts at your company (and I am a grunt in my industry so that is not a knock) are the not the bad people and are not gleefully making people pay a deductible.  It may be that the damn specialists at the AMA deemed this procedure code necessary to get paid more and now it has turned even worse for the patients.  It doesn’t matter. If we want to blame your “higher ups” or my “higher ups” then that is fine.

 Let’s work backwards.  I believe in screening colonoscopies.  I agree that they should be covered.  I believe that the polyps need to be removed if they are there.  If they are, there should be some small fee added to the procedure that can be passed on to the patient.  Not the whole thing.

 It shouldn’t be rocket science for some computer geek to change the diagnostic procedure code to something else when it started as a screening procedure so that is triggers that small extra fee.

 Sharon, I would like this conversation to be on the blog so smarter people than me could discuss their points of view.  Would that be okay?




Yes, please post on the blog.  I agree that the specialists want to be paid more if a polyp is removed and rightfully so.  I think your solution is perfect.  The problem is that it is too simple and too logical.



Please tell me what you think is the best way to fix this debacle.

7440cookie-checkColonoscopy Controversy Continued