Several lawmakers on Capitol Hill have responded to efforts by the American College of Radiology (ACR), American Gastroenterological Association, industry, and patient groups by sending letters to Charlene Frizzera, acting administrator of the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to cover CT colonography (CTC) as a screening exam for colorectal cancer.
Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) drafted a letter, which has since been signed on to by 32 members of Congress, urging CMS to reverse a February proposal not to cover CTC.
“We fully support national Medicare coverage of CTC as an acceptable minimally-invasive screening test and an additional valuable tool in our arsenal for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer,” Granger and Kennedy wrote.
Meanwhile, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) of the Congressional Black Caucus has also authored a letter to CMS asking the agency cover CTC. Ten other members of the Caucus have signed on to the letter.
This year, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, released a study demonstrating that the disparity between white and nonwhite Medicare enrollees receiving a colorectal cancer screening actually increased between 1995 and 2003.
“Medicare coverage of CTC as a minimally-invasive screening test for colorectal cancer would not just encourage more patients to undergo screening, but it would potentially close or eliminate the gap in colorectal cancer screening between African American and other populations,” wrote Rep. King.
The ACR, imaging manufacturers, and patient groups also penned a letter to CMS asking the agency to reverse its stance on CTC.
“Medicare coverage of CTC would provide a critical opportunity to save lives from cancer, end unbearable suffering, as well as save taxpayer dollars,” stated the ACR letter.
All three letters were sent to CMS today (March 13); the day the public comment period ends on CMS’ February proposal not to cover CT colonography.
The ACR, AGA, industry, and patient groups also held a briefing for congressional and regulatory staff as well as other interested parties at the US Capitol on March 9, 2009 to educate them regarding the importance and effectiveness of CTC and the role it can serve in saving lives.
Elizabeth McFarland, Mchair of the ACR Colon Cancer Committee, presented on behalf of the College. Representatives of the American Cancer Society and the Colon Cancer Alliance also presented.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. The National Cancer Institute Colorectal Cancer Progress Review Group predicts that wider use of screening could save 20,000 lives annually. Colorectal cancer is almost always curable when caught early through colorectal cancer screening. Medicare coverage of CTC could prevent unnecessary deaths.