By Jacob R. Karr, MD

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There are few opportunities when prevention is easily attainable, and so many aspects of medicine are out of our control. A screening colonoscopy is a proven opportunity to prevent the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the United States.

If caught early, colorectal cancer can be cured and in the case of a screening colonoscopy, PREVENTED. The most effective preventative action is a screening colonoscopy. If a polyp or abnormal tissue is found, it can oftentimes be removed during the colonoscopy. Colonoscopies have led to a decline in colorectal cancer rates since the early 2000’s. Considering the axiom uttered by Benjamin Franklin, any barriers to this life-saving procedure that can be removed, should be removed.

A screening colonoscopy is a procedure performed on an individual without symptoms to test for the presence of polyps or cancer. A diagnostic colonoscopy is a procedure performed on an individual with symptoms thought to be originating in the colon.

Under current law, seniors covered by Medicare are eligible for colorectal cancer screenings at no cost to them. If, however, the physician removes a polyp during a screening colonoscopy, then the procedure changes from “screening” to “treatment or diagnostic”, and the Medicare recipient will face an unexpected bill. This is wrong in more than one aspect. If a Medicare recipient is unaware then they are hit with an unexpected bill which can be hundreds of dollars. If the Medicare recipient is aware of this possibility they may avoid a screening colonoscopy which can be life-saving. It makes sense ethically and fiscally to remove this barrier.

According to a recent analysis, closing the loophole by passing the bill would save Medicare in excess of $500 million over 10 years and prevent nearly 2,000 colorectal cancer cases due to proper and timely screening.

The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019 only applies to Medicare; however, private payers will often time follow suit once Medicare makes changes. This is why it is important for all individuals that this passes into law. Please ask your representative to support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019 (S.668/HR.1570).

Below is an example of a message:

I urge you to support the “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act” (S.668/HR.1570). This legislation fixes a flaw by waiving Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing when screening colonoscopies turn therapeutic.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. While progress has been made against colorectal cancer incidence rates and mortality, more needs to be done to increase the use of screening tests by Medicare beneficiaries. Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Below are links to find your representative contact information.

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state