Washington, DC — The National Medical Association has joined colorectal cancer care advocacy groups and the American College of Radiology (ACR) in calling on Congress to pass the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act (H.R. 4632). Introduced in the House by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Danny Davis (D-IL), H.R. 4632 would provide Medicare coverage for seniors who choose to be screened with a virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography). This would remove a financial barrier to care now widely covered by private insurance.
“Early screening for colorectal cancer saves lives. Unfortunately, too many Americans fail to get screened because they feel current procedures are too invasive, or can’t for medical reasons. By covering an additional method of screening, Medicare can give seniors and physicians another tool for preventive and lifesaving care,” said Rep. Wenstrup."Colorectal cancer is largely preventable thanks to effective screening tools. Ensuring access to proven screening exams through Medicare is especially important for America’s vulnerable populations,” noted Rep. Davis.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates are lower and CRC incidence and death rates higher among African-Americans. Virtual colonoscopy is an American Cancer Society-recommended screening exam that has been shown in studies in the United States and abroad to increase screening rates where offered. Less invasive than optical colonoscopy, it does not require sedation. After the procedure, patients may return to daily activities.
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“Medicare coverage of virtual colonoscopy would increase African-American and other minority access to this test that can overcome many cultural stigmas and attract more people to be screened. This would prevent many cancers, find more cancers before they progress and save thousands of people who might otherwise die from a disease that is often preventable,” said Edith Peterson Mitchell, MD, President of the National Medical Association.
A recent major study shows that screening Medicare patients with CT colonography would cost 29 percent less than with optical colonoscopy and save up to $1.7 billion per screening cycle. CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and other major insurers cover screening virtual colonoscopy. More than 20 states require insurers to cover these exams. Yet, Medicare does not cover beneficiaries for CT colonography.
Virtual colonoscopy has been proven comparably accurate to colonoscopy in most people of screening age — including those ages 65 and older. President Obama chose a virtual colonoscopy in his first checkup as Commander-in-Chief.