Groups Urge Congress to Close Medicare Loophole for Colorectal Cancer Screenings

March 26, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Thirty-five patient and provider groups sent a letter to members of Congress this week expressing support for the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (H.R. 1570, S. 668). The legislation would eliminate cost sharing for seniors on Medicare who are hit with a surprise bill during a routine screening colonoscopy when a polyp is discovered and removed during the procedure.

Currently, Medicare covers the full cost of routine screening colonoscopies. However, if a polyp is found and removed during a screening colonoscopy, patients wake up to a pricey cost-sharing payment of up to $350. Learning about the possibility of an unexpected expense can deter people from getting screened for this type of cancer, which is highly preventable.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the groups sending the letter called for timely “leadership in the fight against colorectal cancer,” while noting over 1,700 organizations have committed to ending colorectal cancer as a public health problem.

The following are statements from several of the sponsoring organizations of the letter sent to Capitol Hill:

“We know colorectal cancer can be prevented with regularly-scheduled screenings. Yet too many people forego this simple, preventive procedure because of cost. ACS CAN is proud to join with dozens of other public health groups in calling on Congress to pass legislation that will reduce the burden and suffering of colorectal cancer on our senior citizens. As Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, we look forward to continuing to advocate for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation to advance.”

  • Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

“Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) has been and will continue to be relentless in the push to close the screening bill loophole, as its implications will impact generations to come. Over 150 Fight CRC advocates held 152 meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 19th to encourage their legislators to get this done. This has been a legislative priority for Fight CRC for over 5 years and the time has come to make sure that Americans are not deterred from lifesaving colorectal cancer screening for financial reasons." 

  • Anjee Davis, president of Fight CRC

"Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable with recommended screenings. It’s imperative that we remove the surprise medical costs our seniors may face for this critical preventive service so that we can stop cancer before it starts. The Prevent Cancer Foundation urges Congress to pass the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act in order to protect our most vulnerable seniors from cancer and save lives.”

  • Bo Aldige, founder and CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation

“We know that screening saves lives and we need to promote policies that increase screenings for patients. Congress can help by passing the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act that would fix the coinsurance problem that Medicare patients face when their screening colonoscopy becomes therapeutic. This policy change will remove the financial barriers that Medicare patients face when accessing screening and will help save lives.”

  • David A. Lieberman, MD, AGAF, president of the American Gastroenterological Association

“The American College of Gastroenterology stands with patients and providers in support of essential legislation to reduce unexpected co-pays for Medicare patients as an obstacle to potentially lifesaving colorectal cancer screening by colonoscopy.”

  • Sunada V. Kane, MD, MSPH, FACG, president of the American College of Gastroenterology

“The current cost-sharing policy is fundamentally unfair to Medicare patients, and confusion surrounding differing coverage for different scenarios is an absolute deterrent to screening. Congress can put an end to surprise bills following a screening colonoscopy by passing the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act this year.”

  • Steven Edmundowicz, MD, FASGE, president of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy



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