Maryland Matters
December 5, 2019

Congress should act on legislation to increase access to osteoporosis testing, Associate Clinical Professor Katherine Sharp wrote in Maryland Matters

Sharp, who is the graduate director in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, said that osteoporosis is common but highly underdiagnosed and undertreated. Half of all adults age 50 or older, or 54 million Americans, are at risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis or low bone density. 

But, Sharp says the trend can be reversed with a brief inexpensive test, which few patients are accessing because the Medicare reimbursement rate is too low, making it economically impractical for doctors to administer the test. 

“I know first-hand the power of early diagnosis,” Sharp wrote in her opinion piece. “When I was 27, my doctor had me take a brief, inexpensive DXA test. The test showed I had severe osteoporosis in my hip and osteopenia (low bone density that is not as advanced as osteoporosis) in my spine. After I began receiving treatment for osteoporosis, I was able to increase my bone density to normal levels. Now I continue to take a DXA test every two years.”

S. 283 and H.R. 2693, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Anthony Brown and Andy Harris, would improve access to the testing by establishing a minimum payment amount for DXA screening. 

Sharp cited a recent study in a peer-reviewed journal that found that increasing DXA screening could prevent 3.7 million fractures and reduce total direct medical costs of osteoporosis by almost $55 billion through 2040.

Sharp has spent her career teaching public health and working for government consulting firms on health communication projects and campaigns. 

 
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