Bipartisan Members of Congress Introduce Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019

Mar 6, 2019 Issues: Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10), joined by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-4), and Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-WV-1) introduced the bipartisan Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019. The bill would remove financial barriers to life-saving colorectal cancer screenings and treatment for Medicare beneficiaries. The bill has bipartisan support, with more than 100 Members of Congress joining as original cosponsors.


“Cost should never stand in the way of care,” said Rep. Payne, Jr., the bill’s Democratic co-lead. “Colorectal cancer is largely curable or preventable if caught early. When a person covered by Medicare gets a colonoscopy, they should not be saddled with unexpected costs arising from polyp removal. We want to encourage people to seek out screenings and treatments without the fear of unexpected medical bills. Removing Barriers is a commonsense fix to Medicare law, and it will ensure people are able to afford their colonoscopies.”


“My wife, Shannon, was diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer at age 26, and because it was detected at an early stage, she is now a 19-year survivor,” said Rep. Davis, the bill’s Republican co-lead. “I am proud to support this legislation that will remove barriers to colorectal cancer screenings and tests that lead to early detection and ultimately save lives.”


Seniors on Medicare currently face the prospect of an out-of-pocket expense totaling hundreds of dollars if a polyp is removed during a screening colonoscopy that is supposed to be free. For cost-sensitive seniors, this potential expense can be a deterrent to getting their recommended colorectal cancer screening. The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act waives cost-sharing under Medicare for preventive colonoscopies, even if a polyp or tissue is removed. By reducing disincentives for screenings, the bill will improve health outcomes and save money for both seniors and taxpayers.


“As a conqueror of colorectal cancer, I know firsthand that regular colonoscopies are not only an effective screening mechanism, but they can also be life-saving,” said Rep. McEachin, a Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “We certainly do not want any senior to forego this potentially critical procedure because of a Medicare loophole that could cost them hundreds of dollars in surprise medical bills. This legislation will remove financial barriers to getting a colonoscopy, making this screening more accessible – thereby saving lives.”


“Currently, when a Medicare beneficiary gets a colonoscopy, it will be paid for, as long as nothing is found. Yet, if a polyp is found and removed, they are faced with the possibility of having to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket,” said Rep. McKinley, a Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act stops seniors from being hit with a surprise bill during a routine screening colonoscopy. The current policy is stopping thousands of seniors from getting checked. Closing this loophole would prevent upwards of 2,000 colorectal cancer cases over the next 10 years alone.”


Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.


The bill is endorsed by leading health care organizations, including AARP, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Fight Colorectal Cancer, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the Digestive Health Physicians Association, and the National Patient Advocate Foundation.