Legislation Would Increase Access to Colon Cancer Screenings and Treatments for the Medically Underserved
Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March is a Reminder of the Importance of Screening and Early Detection
WASHINGTON – March 1, 2012 – Critical legislation introduced recently 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. 4120), 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,” said Christopher W. Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “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.”
In addition to this legislation, another bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and U.S. Representatives Kay Granger (R-TX) and James McGovern (D-MA), introduced in 2011, would create a national program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide grants to states for screening low-income individuals who cannot afford to get tested. The program would bridge the gap for men and women who are within the recommended age for colon cancer screening but may not be able to access the new benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
The screening program created by this legislation would be modeled after the successful National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a CDC-run national program which offers lifesaving cancer screenings to low-income and medically underserved women and provides a gateway to treatment through Medicaid. Since 1990, more than 10 million screening exams have been performed through the program for four million women, resulting in the detection of more than 50,000 cases of breast cancer and saving an untold number of lives. The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN have been steadfast supporters of the program since its inception over 20 years ago.
“Colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of over 90 percent when diagnosed early, but a survival rate of only 12 percent when diagnosed late,” said Rob Kugler, chair of ACS CAN’s board of directors. “Colon cancer screening has been proven to prevent cancer through the detection and removal of premalignant polyps. The programs created by these pieces of legislation would help to save lives, prevent suffering and reduce the cost burden of colon cancer on our country.”
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. Economic disparities play a significant role in these statistics, as being uninsured or underinsured often hinders access to colon cancer screening tests, which would detect the disease at an earlier, more treatable stage.
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:
Christina Saull or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 585-3250 or (202) 661-5711
Email: Christina.Saull@cancer.org or Steve.Weiss@cancer.org
For media inquiries, please contact:
Phone: (202) 661-5772