Chelmsford’s Alexa Morell and Representative Arciero publicly testify for health insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 30
CHELMSFORD — Alexa Morell’s life changed drastically on Thursday, September 12, 2019. She saw her son walk for the first time. She was 13 months postpartum.
Later that day, she learned she had stage IV colon cancer that had already spread to her liver.
State Representative James Arciero recently testified alongside Morell, a Chelmsford resident who went on to survive her intense battle with colon cancer at the age of 29 and now advocates for thorough colon screening for younger adults, at a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services.
House Bill 4145, An Act Relative to Colon Cancer Screening was filed by Representative Arciero on behalf of Morell. It would provide public and private insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 30, as determined and directed by a primary care physician. Eleven other legislators have signed onto the bill including local legislators Vanna Howard, Colleen Garry, Tami Gouveia and Senator Ed Kennedy.
“It’s my mission to make colon cancer screening routine for my generation just like breast exams and cervical cancer screenings,” Morell said at the Joint Committee on Financial Services’ public hearing on November 9.
Prior to the stage IV cancer diagnosis in September of 2019, Morell had two weeks of bloody stool, which prompted her to visit to a gastroenterologist and eventually receive a colonoscopy. She had no medical issues prior to the diagnosis.
“I am incredibly passionate about advocating and sharing my story in hopes it saves just one life. I work hard to encourage people to listen to their bodies as soon as something feels off,” Morell said.
She would eventually undergo 12 rounds of chemotherapy, two liver resections, a colon resection, two video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lung surgeries, as well as radiation on her right lung following her diagnosis. She is currently in remission.
“I just know that dropping the colonoscopy age from 45 to 30 will save so many, and I am just so honored to be a part of this,” she added.
The legislation would also eliminate co-payment, deductibility, co-insurance or a cost-sharing requirements for those who need a screening for colorectal cancer.
“I am so honored to testify alongside Alexa and the Morrell family on this health care issue,” Representative Arciero said. “I have known Alexa’s husband, Ryan, for many years for his work at the Massachusetts State House. Alexa’s story is incredible and for her to now advocate for the well-being of others is very brave and commendable.”
Currently, health care coverage only applies to screenings for those patients at the age of 50 tor for individuals with a detailed family history of colorectal cancer.
The cases of young-onset colorectal cancer have increased by 51 percent since 1994, according to the National Cancer Institute. People born in 1990 have a 50% increased chance of developing colorectal cancer than someone born in the 1950s, according to the American Cancer Society.
“I believe this bill will not only be cost effect in the long run for early detection of colorectal cancers, and prompt treatment, but will most importantly save the lives of people across the Commonwealth regardless of socio-economic circumstances or incomes,” Arciero said.