Payne Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Remove Cost Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Mar 3, 2015 Issues: Health Care

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), along with Congressmen Charlie Dent (PA-15), Joe Courtney (CT-2), and Michael Fitzpatrick (PA-8), today introduced The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, bipartisan legislation that would remove financial barriers to life-saving colorectal cancer screenings and treatment for Medicare beneficiaries.

“No senior on a fixed income should have to choose between their health and buying groceries,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “But under the current Medicare cost-sharing structure, many seniors are faced with unreasonably high costs that deter them from receiving cancer screenings.”

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to remove barriers and increase accessibility for Medicare beneficiaries seeking life-saving colorectal cancer screenings and treatment,” added Congressman Payne, Jr. “I applaud the colorectal cancer community for its efforts to increase awareness about this important issue, and I look forward to our continued partnership in the 114th Congress.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. It is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act would correct a loophole by waiving cost-sharing under Medicare for preventive colonoscopies, even if a polyp or tissue is removed. Medicare-aged individuals account for two-thirds of colorectal cancer diagnoses.

Leading public health and advocacy organizations have come out in support of The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. Here is what they are saying:

American Medical Association

“By requiring Medicare to waive the coinsurance for colorectal screening tests, regardless of whether therapeutic intervention is required during the procedure, your legislation would ensure that seniors receiving colonoscopies that become diagnostic do not incur any cost-sharing for the procedures,” said James L. Madara, MD, Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physician organization. “[U]nder regulations issued to implement the ACA provisions on preventive screenings covered by private insurance coverage, polyp removal and tissue biopsy are considered to be an integral part of a colonoscopy and therefore patients incur no cost-sharing. Your legislation would treat colonoscopies covered by Medicare in the same fashion and would remove a significant cost barrier that discourages Medicare beneficiaries from undergoing preventive colorectal cancer screenings.”


“AARP is pleased to endorse the bipartisan Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (H.R. 1220),” said Joyce A. Rogers, AARP Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. “Your legislation would waive coinsurance for colorectal cancer screening tests, thus covering 100% of their cost under Medicare Part B. AARP strongly supports improved access to Medicare preventive services.”

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

“Colonoscopies are proven to prevent colon cancer and save lives, but any cost-sharing can be a deterrent from getting screened,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Skipping recommended screening could mean a patient receives a later-stage colorectal cancer diagnosis that can be more expensive to treat and harder to survive. This legislation will make colorectal cancer screening more accessible to more people irrespective of their ability to pay.”

Fight Colorectal Cancer

“We at Fight Colorectal Cancer appreciate Congressman Payne's leadership and support in reducing barriers to colorectal cancer screening,” said Anjee Davis, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer. “This important bipartisan piece of legislation will help seniors access life saving screening options. This is an important step towards increasing screening rates for this preventable cancer and reaching our national goal of 80% of Americans 50 years and older screened by 2018.”

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE)

“Not enough people are being screened for colorectal cancer, and cost-sharing creates unforeseen financial burdens for those patients who benefit most from screening: those with colon polyps. Ultimately, the change in procedural classification discourages the use of colonoscopy, a life-saving exam,” said Colleen M. Schmitt, MD, MHS, FASGE, president of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).

Prevent Cancer Foundation

“The Prevent Cancer Foundation is grateful to see the reintroduction of the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act in the 114th Congress,” says Carolyn Aldigé, president and founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “This legislation is vital to our nation's seniors as they seek to reduce their risk for this deadly disease. Medicare beneficiaries should not be faced with a financial burden when a colonoscopy serves its intended purpose—finding precancerous polyps and helping to save lives.”

American Gastroenterological Association (AGA)

“The AGA applauds Rep. Payne for his leadership in sponsoring the Removing Barriers to CRC Screening Act and for his tireless efforts in increasing awareness as to the importance of screening,” said John I. Allen, MD, MBA, president of American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). “We know screening saves lives, but if patients do not have full coverage of a screening colonoscopy, regardless of the outcome, it will deter some patients, particularly those high risk patients, from getting screened. This legislation will provide Medicare patients the assurance that they need that the screening will be covered and will provide clarity for physicians who have struggled with this confusing policy.”

The Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC)

“Unlike other cancer screenings designed to detect cancer at an early stage, colorectal cancer screening actually prevents cancer from occurring in the first place,” said DDNC President, Costas Kefalas, MD.  “Medicare has made great strides towards increasing screening rates, but less than two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries receive a recommended screening. Colorectal cancer incidence and death rates continue to fall.  We must continue to remove financial barriers to life-saving screening procedures and build off of this positive trend and public health success story. DDNC appreciates and recognizes the work that Senator Brown, Representative Dent, Representative Donald Payne, Jr., and others have been engaged in on behalf of the digestive disease community.”

American College of Gastroenterology (ACG)

“The American College of Gastroenterology applauds Rep. Payne and colleagues for introducing this important bill,” Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, president of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). “If found early through appropriate screening and detection, polyps can be removed before actually progressing into colorectal cancer.  In fact, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that of the nearly 50,000 people expected to die of colorectal cancer this year, screening could save more than 50% of them.  This bill recognizes the importance of screening colonoscopy and the public health priority in eliminating patient cost-sharing when polyps are removed during this life-saving procedure.”

Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA)

“The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association strongly supports the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act,” said William Prentice, CEO, Ambulatory Surgery Center Association. “As one of the leading providers of colonoscopies for Medicare patients, we believe that it is critical to maintain access to these affordable life-saving screenings. Thank you for your leadership on this issue. We look forward to working with you to press for the swift passage of this important legislation.”