Federal Initiatives to Fight Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second largest cancer killer in the US among cancers that affect both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2012, an estimated 143,000 new cases were expected to be diagnosed and more than 51,600 people were expected to die as a result of the disease.

US Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) has introduced H.R. 1220, “The Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2015.” The bill set out to correct an oversight in current law that requires Medicare beneficiaries to cover the cost of their copayment for a “free” screening colonoscopy if a polyp is discovered and removed during the procedure.

In December 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a health promotion and disease prevention program called “Healthy People 2020.” One of the objectives of that program is to achieve a 70.5 percent colorectal cancer screening rate in the US. If that target is met, the CDC projects that close to 1,000 additional colorectal cancer deaths will be prevented each year.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was largely upheld by the Supreme Court last year, also helps to promote increased access to screening colonoscopies. In particular, the law eliminates all cost-sharing for colorectal cancer screening covered by Medicare and requires new health insurance plans to cover colorectal cancer screening without cost-sharing. The law also increases the number of people eligible for Medicaid to include all individuals who are below 133 percent of the poverty level (in 2014).

Additional Resources:

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The Latest Facts on Colorectal Cancer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Screening Versus Diagnostic Colonoscopy: What You, Your Patients and Referring Physicians Should Know
The American Gastroenterological Association

Saving Lives Through Expert Care
The Value of Colonoscopy

Colonoscopic Polypectomy and Long-Term Prevention of Colorectal-Cancer Deaths
The New England Journal of Medicine