Legislation Seeks to Remove Colonoscopy Cost for Medicare Patients

Imagine going in for a free screening colonoscopy only to discover afterward that you’re responsible for hundreds of dollars in expenses. This is a real possibility for Medicare beneficiaries, due to a loophole in the health care reform law.

Current policy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fully covers the cost of screening colonoscopies for Medicare beneficiaries. However, if a polyp is detected and removed during the procedure, the exam is reclassified as a diagnostic service and the patient is responsible for paying co-insurance. The possibility of incurring such charges could deter at-risk individuals from receiving routine colon screenings, placing them at greater risk of developing colon cancer or being diagnosed at a later stage. But new bipartisan legislation seeks to change that.

The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2015 (H.R. 1220) was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in early March. This legislation seeks to eliminate cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries who have a polyp removed during a screening colonoscopy. Removing these financial barriers would ensure that all Medicare patients have access to free screening colonoscopies, regardless of their procedure outcome.

The legislation is currently supported by more than 20 state and national organizations. Stephen B. Hanauer, president of the American College of Gastroenterology, voiced his support for the bill, saying, “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 percent 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 lifesaving procedure" (Source: The Morning Call).

For more information about the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2015 or to track this bill, visit GovTrack.us. Click here to send representatives letters asking for their support.

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