Legislation Would Increase Access to Colon Cancer Screenings and Treatments for the Medically Underserved
Statement from American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President Christopher Hansen
WASHINGTON – March 13, 2013 – “Critical legislation introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives would ensure that cost is not a barrier for Medicare beneficiaries to access lifesaving colon cancer screenings.
“The ‘Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2012’ (H.R. 1070), sponsored by U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA), would eliminate cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries receiving a colonoscopy, even if a polyp is removed. Under current Medicare policy routine colonoscopies are considered a free preventive service; however, cost sharing is required if a polyp is removed during the routine colonoscopy. Colonoscopies have been shown to prevent colon cancer, but this cost may serve as a barrier for some people seeking to get the screening, since a patient won’t find out whether a precancerous polyp or other abnormality needed to be removed until after the procedure is complete. The risk of any cost-sharing can be a deterrent from getting the screening.
“I commend Representative Dent for this important effort to ensure that everyone has access to life saving cancer screenings, without regard to their ability to 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.
“Patients and consumers in the private insurance market should no longer face unexpected and significant cost-sharing for preventive colon cancer screening tests that were supposed to be free under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Labor today issued guidance that polyps removed during a routine screening colonoscopy should not affect the nature of the procedure and thus carry a co-pay. Previously, if a polyp was removed insurers were reclassifying the procedure and no longer considering it a preventive measure. This loophole meant patients could find themselves with an unexpected cost burden for a preventive service that was supposed to be free, because it carried an “A” rating by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.”
Also known as colorectal cancer, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. An estimated 143,460 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012, and 51,690 colorectal cancer deaths are estimated to occur in the same year.
African-American men and women are disproportionately affected by this disease, having higher colon cancer incidence and mortality rates than whites.
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711
Email: Lauren.Walens@cancer.org or Steve.Weiss@cancer.org
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