Payne, Lance Lead Group of 94 House Members in Urging CMS to Protect Access to Live-Saving Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Oct 1, 2015 Issues: Health Care

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of 94 House members, led by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) and Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-7), sent a letter to the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Andrew Slavitt, expressing concerns about proposed cuts in Medicare payments for colorectal cancer screenings and colonoscopies.

“As longstanding proponents of improving colorectal cancer screening rates among Medicare beneficiaries, we are writing in regard to the disconcerting cuts to colonoscopy in Medicare’s Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule,” the members wrote. “Our goal is to reduce barriers to colorectal cancer screening in a manner that is also consistent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) collaborative goal of 80 percent screening rates for the recommended population by 2018. Colorectal cancer screening is unique in that recommended screening is designed to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place.”

The letter continues, “We hope you will carefully consider the solicited stakeholder comments on the proposed rule before determining whether cuts of this magnitude are justified by the evidence and are in the interests of Medicare beneficiaries.”

While colorectal cancer remains the number two cause of cancer related deaths in the United States, colon cancer screenings, like colonoscopies, can detect and prevent the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer incidence rates in the United States have dropped more than 30 percent over the past decade largely due to the detection and removal of precancerous polyps as a result of increased colorectal cancer screening. 

However, in 2016, CMS will propose cuts ranging from 10 to 20 percent to the Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement for colorectal cancer screening and colonoscopy, which could adversely impact the goal of screening more Americans and thus, preventing cancer.

The letter is supported by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG).

The full text of the letter follows below. Click here for a PDF of the signed version.

Dear Mr. Slavitt:

As longstanding proponents of improving colorectal cancer screening rates among Medicare beneficiaries, we are writing in regard to the disconcerting cuts to colonoscopy in Medicare’s Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule. Our goal is to reduce barriers to colorectal cancer screening in a manner that is also consistent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) collaborative goal of 80 percent screening rates for the recommended population by 2018. Colorectal cancer screening is unique in that recommended screening is designed to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place.

Together, HHS and Congress have made tremendous strides in improving screening rates – no other country can boast the positive momentum we have had in saving lives from this disease. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer incidence rates in the United States have dropped more than 30 percent over the past decade – the large declines over the past decade have been largely attributed to the detection and removal of precancerous polyps as a result of increased colorectal cancer screening.

However, colorectal cancer is still the number two cause of cancer related deaths in the United States and more must be done to increase the screening among Medicare beneficiaries, who are at high risk of colorectal cancer. Medicare beneficiaries account for two-thirds of the more than 133,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that removing precancerous polyps through colonoscopy can not only reduce the risk of colorectal cancer but also reduce the number of deaths from the disease by 53 percent. We strongly agree that we must continue to increase access to and utilization of services such as colorectal cancer screening, which have been historically underutilized.

In light of the Agency’s pending proposal to reduce Medicare fee for service reimbursement for colorectal cancer screening and colonoscopy by 10 to 20 percent next year, we feel compelled to express concern that these cuts could jeopardize recent progress and a budding public health success story. Accordingly, we hope you will carefully consider the solicited stakeholder comments on the proposed rule before determining whether cuts of this magnitude are justified by the evidence and are in the interests of Medicare beneficiaries. We remain hopeful that Congress and the Agency can work together to implement consistent policies to further reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality.

Together we can help to facilitate this “80 percent by 2018” goal and we look forward to strengthening the Medicare program on behalf of our constituents and Americans nationwide.

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