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

Coverage for Seniors Would Help Reduce Racial Disparities in CRC Outcomes and Lower Screening Costs

September 19, 2018

Newswise — Washington (Sept. 19, 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 US Senate today would provide Medicare coverage for screening CT 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. Shocking racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer screening rates and outcomes remain. Studies (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, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee.

S.3465 was introduced in the US Senate by Senators James M. Inhofe (R-OK) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The companion bill (HR 1298) was introduced into the US House of Representatives by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Danny Davis (D-IL). The House bill currently has over 80 bipartisan cosponsors. Find more information on virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) in English and Spanish at RadiologyInfo.org/virtualct.

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To speak with a Colorectal Cancer Alliance representative, contact Steven Bushong at 330-957-0484 or sbushong@ccalliance.org or Maurisa Potts at maurisapotts@gmail.com or 703-501-6289.

To speak with a Colon Cancer Coalition representative, contact Erin Peterson at 651-247-4023 or erin@coloncancercoalition.org.

To speak with a Prevent Cancer Foundation representative, contact Hayley Cooke at Hayley.Cooke@preventcancer.org  or 703- 837-3692.

To speak with an ACR representative, contact Shawn Farley or Meghan Swope at 703-648-8936 or PR@acr.org.

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