During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, societies urge Congress to pass the 'Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2012'
Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but a loophole in current Medicare law may cause patients to think twice before undergoing this vital test. Legislation introduced today seeks to ensure that colorectal cancer screening for all Medicare beneficiaries is free, as intended.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act waives the coinsurance and deductible for many cancer screening tests, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), which screen for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is a unique screening test because gastroenterologists are able to remove precancerous polyps and small cancers during the screening procedure. Under Medicare billing rules, removal of any polyp reclassifies the screening as a therapeutic procedure, for which patients will receive an unexpected coinsurance bill.
The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2012 introduced today by Rep. Charlie Dent, R-PA, waives the coinsurance for a screening colonoscopy regardless of whether a polyp or lesion is found. Under current Medicare policy, the beneficiary deductible is waived regardless of whether a polyp or lesion is found. Congressman Dent's bill applies the same rational policy to beneficiary coinsurance.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) have been advocating for the past year and half that Congress corrects this "cost-sharing" problem, which continues to cause confusion for patients and providers.
Cost sharing creates financial barriers, which could discourage the use of colonoscopy. The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2012 is critical to achieving higher screening rates and reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer. Almost 38 percent of U.S. adults age 50 and older have never been screened, despite the fact that removing precancerous polyps cuts the death rate from colorectal cancer by half. Christopher W. Hansen, president, ACS CAN
"I commend Representative Dent for this important effort to ensure that everyone has access to life saving cancer screenings, without regard to their ability pay. Too many Americans are going without lifesaving screenings because they cannot afford it. We urge Congress to help stop a cancer that can be prevented in many cases." Lawrence S. Kim, MD, AGAF, Community Private Practice Councillor