March 9, 2015, Washington, D.C. – The Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA®) today applauded U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) for introducing legislation that would remove barriers to life-saving colorectal cancer screenings and treatment.
“On behalf of our 1,200 physician members who last year treated more than two million patients, we strongly support this legislation to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to quality preventive health care, without fear of unexpected costs,” said Dr. Scott Ketover, President and Chairman of the Board of DHPA, a professional trade association comprised of independent gastroenterology practices from across the country, which deliver high quality, cost-efficient, integrated health care in independent medical practices.
The “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act”’ (S. 624) would waive coinsurance under Medicare for colorectal cancer screening tests, regardless of whether therapeutic intervention, the removal of polyp tissue, is required during screening. Despite Medicare promoting cancer screenings as a free service, beneficiaries currently face co-pay obligations when a polyp is removed.
Colonoscopies are among the most effective cancer-prevention tools in modern medicine, as the procedure can simultaneously involve diagnosis and treatment. Colonoscopy screening is classified as a United States Preventative Services Task Force recommended screening 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,” resulting in an unexpected expense that would fall to the patient to cover. There is no way of knowing whether a polyp will be removed before the physician performs the screening colonoscopy.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among all adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with two-thirds of colorectal cancers occurring in Medicare-aged individuals. When caught early, it is curable and can even be prevented.
“This important bipartisan legislation will save lives while also saving money for both Medicare beneficiaries and the Medicare program,” said Dr. Michael Weinstein, DHPA’s health policy chair. “DHPA is grateful that these Senators are working to remove barriers to screening to help prevent colorectal cancer in the Medicare population.