Legislation Would Remove Cost Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening and Treatment for Seniors

Statement from Chris Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 3, 2015 Bipartisan legislation introduced today in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would help ensure that cost is not a barrier for Medicare beneficiaries trying to access lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings.

The äóÖRemoving Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, ' (S. 624/H.R. 1220) would eliminate cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries receiving a routine screening colonoscopy when a polyp is removed. This critical bill is sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Charlie Dent (R-PA), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT).

Under current policy, Medicare fully pays for routine colonoscopies for the purpose of screening. But if a polyp is found and removed during the procedure, the colonoscopy is categorized as a diagnostic exam, and the patient must pay a share of the cost. This loophole, which applies only to Medicare beneficiaries, can leave a patient with a bill that could be as much as $500 out of pocket. The administration fixed this glitch in 2013 by eliminating most patient costs for those with private insurance, and there 's every reason to provide the same assurance to Medicare beneficiaries.

Colonoscopies are proven to prevent colon cancer and save lives, but any cost-sharing can be a deterrent from getting screened. Skipping recommended screening could mean a patient receives a later-stage colorectal cancer diagnosis that can be more expensive to treat and harder to survive. This legislation will make colorectal cancer screening more accessible to more people irrespective of their ability to pay.ξMore seniors getting screened will result in fewer cases of cancer, reduced cost of treating the disease and most importantly, fewer needless deaths from a disease that is easily detected and prevented.

Nearly 137,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and 50,000 of them will die. ACS CAN has joined with more than 200 other public health organizations committed to increasing the colorectal cancer screening rate to 80 percent by 2018. By removing financial barriers to screening, Congress would help increase screening rates and reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit


Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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