The National Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2009, Subtitle B, waived copayments for preventive cancer screening services for all TRICARE beneficiaries, excluding Medicare-eligible beneficiaries. 1 These preventive services include screening for colorectal cancer (CRC), breast cancer, and cervical cancer based on current guidelines (eAppendix1).
Despite having unrestricted access to these cancer screenings, TRICARE Prime beneficiaries report overall screening completion rates that are below the national commercial benchmarks established by the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) for all 3 cancer types. 2 Specifically, among TRICARE Prime beneficiaries enrolled in the western region of the U.S. in October 2013, the reported breast cancer screening rate was 61.6% (43,138/69,976) for women aged 42 to 69 years, which is well below the HEDIS 75th percentile of 76%. Similarly, the reported rate of cervical cancer screening among women aged 24 to 64 years was 68.3% (63,523/92,946), well below the HEDIS 75th percentile of 79%. Last, the reported rate of CRC screening among male and female TRICARE Prime members aged 51 to 75 years was 61.6% (52,860/85,827), also below the 2013 HEDIS 75th percentile of 63% based on internal review of TRICARE data used for HEDIS reporting.
Given the reported low screening rates, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) performed a cross-sectional survey to assess TRICARE Prime West region beneficiaries’ knowledge and understanding of preventive health screening, specifically for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and CRC, and to identify any potential barriers to access for these screenings.
A mostly closed-ended, 42-item telephone survey was designed and conducted (eAppendix2)
All women participating in the survey, regardless of age, were asked questions regarding cervical cancer screening. Women aged ≥ 42 years additionally were asked a second set of survey questions specific to breast cancer screening, and women aged between 51 and 64 years were asked a third set of questions related to CRC screening. The ages selected were 1 to 2 years after the recommended age for the respective screening to ensure adequate follow-up time for the member to obtain the screening. Men included in the survey were asked questions related only to CRC screening.