GI Physician Trade Group Applauds Advocates for Urging Policymakers to Safeguard Access to Lifesaving Colonoscopy
July 21, 2014, Washington, D.C. – The Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA) today applauded the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network for convening more than 30 colorectal cancer advocates and survivors on Capitol Hill to support legislation introduced by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) that would remove cost barriers to colon cancer screening.
“The DHPA applauds these patient advocates and survivors for their commitment to safeguarding access to colonoscopies for America’s seniors,” said Dr. Scott Ketover, president of DHPA, a trade association comprised of independent gastroenterology practices from across the country that works with legislators, regulators and other policymakers to promote and preserve access to high quality, cost-efficient and integrated healthcare delivered by physicians who care for patients in independent medical practices.”
“On behalf of more than 940 gastroenterologists and other physician specialists who last year treated more than 1.5 million patients, we support the legislation introduced by Sen. Brown in the Senate and Rep. Dent in the House that would eliminate needless cost barriers to routine colonoscopy screenings that have proven time and again to prevent colon cancer and save lives,” said Dr. Michael Weinstein, DHPA’s health policy chair.
The ‘Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act,’ (H.R. 1070 & S. 2348) sponsored by Rep. Dent and Sen. Brown, would offer Medicare beneficiaries the same benefits as their peers with private insurance who are not typically required to render a co-pay for a routine colonoscopy if a polyp is removed during the procedure.
Colonoscopies are among the most effective cancer-preventing tools in modern medicine, as the procedure can simultaneously involve diagnosis and treatment. Currently, a colonoscopy screening is classified as a routine procedure for seniors on Medicare, meaning there is no associated charge to the patient. However, if a physician detects a polyp during the procedure and removes it, the procedure is immediately classified as “therapeutic,” which could result in associated, unexpected charges that would fall to the patient to cover.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among all adults and, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one in three adults (23 million) aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The CDC estimates that 60 percent of deaths could be avoided with screening. The disease is 90 percent curable when caught at its earliest state. Each year, more than 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed and approximately 50,000 preventable deaths occur. Not only is the disease devastating to patients and their families, but treatment of colon cancer costs approximately $14 billion per year.