PrestonSPRINGFIELD – Emphasizing the critical need for improved access to colonoscopy screenings, State Senator Willie Preston joined State Representative Cyril Nichols at a press conference Wednesday to highlight a new measure, House Bill 2385, that would facilitate the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer.

“Discussing colonoscopies may not be the easiest conversation to have, but it's a vital one, especially for Black men,” said Preston (D-Chicago). “Increasing access to colonoscopy screenings empowers individuals to take charge of their well-being and provides peace of mind through preventative care.”

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide, yet it is highly preventable through early detection and removal of precancerous polyps. During the press conference, speakers emphasized the significance of regular screenings for individuals, especially Black men over the age of 39, as well as those with a family history of the disease or other risk factors.

JoAnne Bardwell, a registered nurse, provided a detailed overview of the colonoscopy screening process, highlighting the barriers that often deter people from seeking preventive care. Concerns about discomfort and embarrassment, cultural stigma and previous negative experiences in health care settings can all contribute to people not receiving the care they need.

"A colonoscopy can detect polyps before they become cancerous, giving us a chance to prevent colorectal cancer from developing,” said Bardwell. "It's a minimally invasive procedure that can save lives, but the procedure itself is a deterrent, so removing financial barriers by having this covered under all insurance companies is important to overcoming low participation in colonoscopy screenings."

Current law requires insurance coverage of a colonoscopy as a follow-up exam after receiving a recommendation from a primary care doctor. House Bill 2385 would expand coverage of a broader range of colonoscopies by removing the follow-up exam requirement. Under Preston’s measure, all colonoscopies deemed medically necessary — such as in cases where a patient displays signs or symptoms of colon cancer or has an existing colon condition — would be covered starting Jan. 1, 2025.

“With this legislation, we can start to market these screenings in a way that people will pay attention and actually go get these screenings,” said Nichols (D-Chicago). “I am so proud to be partnered with Senate champion Senator Preston on this legislation.”

House Bill 2385 awaits further discussion in the Senate.