Bill Would Close Medicare Colorectal Cancer Screening Loophole

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Washington, D.C.—A bill before Congress would guarantee Medicare recipients can access life-saving colorectal cancer screenings without cost-sharing. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the month, ACS CAN staff and volunteers will be urging lawmakers to support and pass the “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act” (H.R. 1017 and S. 479) – a bill that would eliminate cost-sharing during a routine screening colonoscopy when a polyp is removed. The legislation is sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Representatives Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J.)

Colonoscopies are proven to prevent colon cancer and save lives, but evidence shows any cost sharing can deter people from getting screened. Currently, Medicare covers the full cost of routine screening colonoscopies. However, if a polyp is found and removed during a screening colonoscopy, individuals who have benefits through Medicare will wake up to a pricey cost-sharing payment of more than $300. The loophole was fixed for those with private insurance.

This legislation will help ensure that all seniors have access to lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “More seniors getting screened will result in fewer cases of colorectal cancer, less treatment-associated costs and, most importantly, fewer needless deaths from a disease that can be detected and prevented.”

More than 140,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and over 50,000 of them will die from the disease. ACS CAN, along with more than 1,000 other public health organizations, is committed to increasing the colorectal cancer screening rate to 80 percent.

“Even though colorectal cancer is preventable, far too many Americans forego screening because of cost,” said Hansen. “By removing financial barriers to screening, Congress can help increase screening rates and reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer.”

In addition to closing the Medicare loophole, Congress should also protect funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Colorectal Cancer Prevention Program (CRCCP). CRCCP is dedicated to helping prevent and detect colorectal cancer across 23 states serving over 700,000 uninsured and underinsured patients and is proven to increase age appropriate screening rates. The $43 million program would be eliminated under the president’s FY 2019 budget.

“Maintaining or increasing funding for the CRCCP program has the potential to significantly improve screening rates and reduce the burden of colorectal cancer for some of the most underserved Americans,” said Hansen. “We urge Congress to restore funding for this important program in the final 2019 budget.”

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