May 13, 2009
Colon Cancer Alliance Statement Regarding CMS' Decision to Not Cover Virtual Colonoscopies
"The Colon Cancer Alliance is extremely disappointed that the Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) opted to deny coverage for CT Colonography (CTC), commonly known as virtual colonoscopy. CTC has proven to be a very effective method of early detection and prevention of colon cancer. This decision now leaves millions of older Americans exposed to a higher risk of colon cancer. It also exacerbates an unequal standard of care between Medicare beneficiaries, who do not have the choice to undergo a virtual colonoscopy, and those with private insurance who do. America's seniors deserve better. They deserve the same access to colorectal screening tools as Americans fortunate enough to have private health insurance.
"About 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, the majority of them Medicare aged. It's the third highest cause of cancer in the country and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Caught early, it has cure rates of more than 90 percent and through proper screening can be avoided entirely.
"Making virtual colonoscopy more easily available as an alternative to standard colonoscopy would be an important tool that ultimately motivates more Americans 50-plus (45 in certain minorities) to undergo a screening they might otherwise skip. Improved access to virtual colonoscopy has the potential to increase screening rates enough to save both lives and money.
"It's the right of an American senior to screen for colon cancer using any form of medically accepted, effective procedure they and their doctor choose. This is especially true in the case of virtual colonoscopy, where it's cheaper, less invasive and equally medically effective as standard colonoscopy. By denying coverage for virtual colonoscopy, CMS is sending the signal that increased screening amongst the Medicare beneficiary population is unimportant. The Colon Cancer Alliance and its members strongly disagree with this sentiment. Medicare beneficiaries deserve access to virtual colonoscopies. We urge CMS to immediately re-open a coverage decision so it can consider additional data pertaining to the age 65 and above population."
Chief Executive Officer
Colon Cancer Alliance