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It's more than insurance. It's a life. 

by Jessica Wells, League Communications Specialist

As a promise to her sister who died of cancer at age 35, town of Canton employee Patty Rathbone faithfully had her annual GYN exams and mammograms. She turned 50 in February 2014, and with that birthday came the American Cancer Society’s annual colonoscopy recommendation.

"From February, I procrastinated, and on September 5, 2014, I finally had it done," Rathbone said. "Three days later, I got the call I never dreamed I’d get."

Her polyp came back cancerous. Because of early detection, the doctors were able to remove all of the cancer.

"The doctors told me to be very thankful because if I had waited a couple more months, I would have been facing a very difficult situation," she said.Risk Management Services implemented new wellness requirements in 2014 to save lives like Rathbone’s. Health Benefits Trust members were required complete their annual physical, age appropriate cancer screenings per the American Cancer Society guidelines, and participate in the Personal Care Management program if invited. Failure to meet these requirements results in a 10 percent penalty applied to the monthly premium of the non-compliant employee or dependent.

Since implementing the requirements, screening colonoscopies have increased from 159 in 2013 to 714 in 2014 – a 350 percent increase.

"If insurance pays for it, then why not do it? You’ve got nothing to lose, but you’ve got everything to gain," Rathbone said. "They paid for everything at 100 percent. No problems. They cover it, and they’re there for you."

Since her cancer scare, she’s more diligent about follow-ups – not just for herself, but for her new granddaughter, who was born in December. Her results also set new requirements for her family to be screened before age 50.

"Every time I look at my granddaughter, I think, ‘Thank you, Lord, for putting these requirements in place so I can be here today,’" she said. "There is something worth living for. For me, it’s my family and watching them grow up."

The requirements will also combat volatile health claims observed over the past five years -- large claims costing more than $50,000 have more than doubled from 2007 to 2013. Claims data reveal that more than 50 percent of members did not receive age appropriate cancer screenings, and 70 percent were noncompliant for their annual physicals in 2013/2014.

Compliance increased dramatically across the board this year, which indicates these new requirements will continue to save lives and create new relationships between patients and doctors as patient health is better managed and problems are detected early.

"It’s more than insurance to me," Rathbone said. "It’s a life."