Colorectal cancer impacts one in every 20 Americans and is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. That’s why, this National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’re teaming up to shed light on this disease and advance legislation that makes it easier to fight back.
As members of Congress committed to fighting colorectal cancer, we want to make sure every American has access to critical – and potentially lifesaving –cancer screenings. That means removing detrimental roadblocks that could keep someone from receiving the treatment they need.
Together, we introduced the bipartisan Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2015 [H.R. 1220] – legislation that eliminates an unintended cost barrier for Medicare beneficiaries to life-saving colorectal cancer screening.
Right now, colorectal cancer screening colonoscopies have an “A” rating from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. As a result, this screening is covered by Medicare, and Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (deductible and coinsurance) is waived. However, many Medicare patients unexpectedly find themselves liable for coinsurance due to an oversight in current law.
If during a screening colonoscopy a polyp is removed, the screening service is “reclassified” as a diagnostic service for Medicare billing purposes. As a result, beneficiary coinsurance is not waived for the service. There is no way of knowing in advance whether a polyp will be removed during a screening colonoscopy. Therefore, Medicare beneficiaries are often surprised to find out after their screening that coinsurance is owed.
The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act corrects this fragmented policy by ensuring that Medicare patients will not be required to pay coinsurance when their colorectal screening colonoscopy includes potentially lifesaving polyp removal during the screening encounter.
While a coinsurance liability of $100 or $300 may not seem like much, for seniors on a fixed income, that cost could be the deciding factor of whether to pursue a potentially life-saving screening colonoscopy. We must correct current law so we can continue, not undo, the progress this country has made in the fight against colorectal cancer.
More than 20 state and national organizations support this critical legislation, including the American College of Gastroenterology. ACG president Stephen B. Hanauer sums up the importance of this bill when he notes, “a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that of the nearly 50,000 people expected to die of colorectal cancer this year, screening could save more than 50% of them. This bill recognizes the importance of screening colonoscopy and the public health priority in eliminating patient cost-sharing when polyps are removed during this life-saving procedure.”
If the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act can save one person by correcting broken language in current law, it will have been worth it. If it can play a part in updating the way tens of thousands of Americans value and access screenings, it will be a game changer in our battle against colorectal cancer.
As we work to empower those impacted by this disease, we will continue to seek bipartisan support for common sense measures that remove barriers, change stigmas and increase responsiveness, so each month is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Fitzpatrick has represented Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District from 2005 to 2007 and again since 2011. He sits on the Financial Services Committee. Courtney has represented Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District since 2007. He sits on the Armed Services and the Education and the Workforce committees. Dent has represented Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District since 2005. He is chairman of the Ethics Committee and also sits on the Appropriations Committee. Payne has represented New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District since 2012. He sits on the Homeland Security and the Small Business committees. Lance has represented New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.