Molly McDonnell, Director of Advocacy, Fight Colorectal Cancer

Congress Passed the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. Now What?

By Molly McDonnell, Director of Advocacy, Fight Colorectal Cancer

Now, there is one less major barrier to this lifesaving screening for those who are most at risk.”

In December 2020, the colorectal cancer community experienced the sweet taste of victory. After asking Congress to pass the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act for eight years, the bill was signed into law!

About the Bill

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 enabled seniors on Medicare to get a no-cost screening colonoscopy. However, there was a loophole in the law. If those patients had polyps found and removed during the procedure, they could receive an unexpected charge. 

Once this loophole was realized, some private insurers removed the charge. But, Congress needed to act in order for Medicare policy to be changed. Fight Colorectal Cancer began advocating for this update in 2012 after several Members of Congress offered to help. It was nicknamed the “Medicare Loophole Bill” and taken up by several advocacy groups.

Congressional Support 

For more than eight years, Fight CRC advocates influenced their members of Congress to support the bill. Advocates traveled to Washington, D.C. from all over the country to share their stories with elected officials and ask them to support this policy. 

The “Medicare Loophole” bill was included in Fight CRC’s legislative priorities year after year, and advocates tirelessly asked their representatives to support it. Many Congressional champions rallied around it, and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. became extremely supportive when he was elected to Congress in 2012. Rep. Payne, Jr. lost his father, Rep. Payne, Sr., to colorectal cancer and won a special election to fill his father’s congressional seat. Rep. Payne, Jr. viewed the bill as a way to honor his father’s legacy and save other families experiencing the same pain. 

After years of gaining support and multiple reintroductions, the bill was able to garner broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It passed in December 2020 as part of a large end-of-year government funding and COVID-19 relief bill compiled by the House and Senate leadership.

See a timeline of the Medicare Loophole Bill’s growing support.

What does the bill mean?

More seniors now have access to potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening. Prior to this law taking effect, if a Medicare beneficiary went in for a screening colonoscopy and the doctor found polyps and removed them, patients could potentially wake up with a several hundred-dollar bill. This known barrier to screening is now being removed. 

It’s important to note that an amendment was added to the bill to gradually phase out the out-of-pocket cost. The loophole will be removed over time rather than all at once. Patients will be responsible for a decreasing coinsurance with the cost being completely phased out by 2030.

Colorectal cancer is estimated to kill more than 53,000 Americans this year alone, but it’s preventable with recommended screening. Now, there is one less major barrier to this lifesaving screening for those who are most at risk.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness

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