Nebraskans should make sure any DNA testing they undergo for cancer screening is recommended by their doctor and have a clear understanding of who will pay for it before proceeding.

The warning from the Nebraska Department of Insurance and the Senior Health Insurance Information Program comes amid multiple reports of outside entities offering cheek-swab DNA tests to screen for cancer at a number of senior residences and senior centers across the state.

Bruce Ramge, the state insurance department’s director, said the calls the agency has received indicate that seniors are under the impression that the cost of testing will be covered by Medicare. In fact, there are limitations to what services — and under what circumstances — the testing will be covered.

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“We don’t want individuals to be misled about what is covered and what is not,” he said.

Ramge said the department does not want to discourage people from having such testing if their doctor orders it for them. But they should be cautious if an unknown entity offers it, particularly if the organization requests that they agree to pay the costs if Medicare does not.

Department officials have heard that testing organizations are charging up to $1,300. The department still is investigating whether anyone has been billed.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Services guidelines outline when Medicare will allow and pay for such services. The full list is online at cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database.

Those who have questions or believe that they have been subject to a potential scam can visit the department’s consumer assistance website, doi.nebraska.gov/consumer/consumer-assistance, or contact the consumer affairs division at 402-471-0888 or toll free at 1-877-564-7323. Consumers also can contact SHIIP at doi.nebraska.gov/consumer/senior-health or toll free at 1-800-234-7119.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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