News | Colonoscopy Systems | September 27, 2018

Advocates say coverage for seniors would help reduce racial disparities in colorectal cancer outcomes and lower screening costs

Patient Groups and Doctors Tell Congress to Pass Medicare Virtual Colonoscopy Coverage

September 27, 2018 — Colorectal cancer care advocacy groups and medical societies are calling on Congress to pass the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act (S.3465/HR 1298). The bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate September 19 would provide Medicare coverage for screening computed tomography colonography (CTC), commonly known as virtual colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is expected to kill 50,000 Americans in 2018. Yet at least a third of those 45 and older who should be screened for CRC choose not to be tested. Racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer screening rates and outcomes remain. Studies in the U.S. and abroad show CT colonography use significantly raises screening rates and lowers costs.

Thirty-seven states require insurance policies to cover virtual colonoscopy. Insurers who take part in federal exchanges are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover the exam with no copay. Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and others cover the test irrespective of ACA requirements. However, Medicare refuses to cover seniors for this American Cancer Society-recommended exam.

“Medicare-covered access to CT colonography can attract many who would otherwise not be tested, allowing doctors to remove polyps before they become cancers and helping people prevent this deadly disease,” said Carolyn R. (“Bo”) Aldigé, CEO and founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

"Timely screening for colorectal cancer can literally save lives, but there are many patients who either cannot or will not have a colonoscopy. For these patients, CT colonography provides a less invasive alternative. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance supports the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Inhofe that will make this screening option available through Medicare,” said Michael Sapienza, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Latino Americans  are more likely to die from the disease than Latinos in many Central and South American countries. African Americans are far more likely to die from colorectal cancer than whites. Members of both groups are less likely to get screened. Their cancers are diagnosed at a later stage than whites.

“Medicare coverage of virtual colonoscopy can help increase screening in underserved areas and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer outcomes. All seniors should have covered access to the test that they will actually choose to have,” said Anne Carlson, president of the Colon Cancer Coalition.

“CT colonography is as accurate as standard colonoscopy in most people — including those 65 and older — and is far less invasive. Former President Obama had this test. Medicare needs to cover CT colonography and help physicians save more lives,” said Judy Yee, M.D., chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Colon Cancer Committee.

S.3465 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators James M. Inhofe (R-OK) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The companion bill (HR 1298) was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Danny Davis (D-IL). The House bill currently has over 80 bipartisan cosponsors.

For more information: www.radiologyinfo.org/virtualct


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