WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep Charlie Dent (PA-15) this week received the Congressional Champion Award from Fight Colorectal Cancer for his efforts to improve prevention and detection of the disease. The award was presented to Rep. Dent by 15th District resident Mary Diacont during a ceremony on the stairs of the U.S. Capitol. Ms. Diacont, who lost her daughter Courtney to colorectal cancer at the age of 18, is a leading cancer advocate in the Lehigh Valley and operates the Courtney Anne Diacont Memorial Foundation.
“I am very proud to be recognized by Fight Colorectal Cancer,” said Rep. Dent. “To receive this award from Mary Diacont is also very humbling.”
“Colorectal cancer patients have a true ally in Rep. Dent. Fight Colorectal Cancer is grateful for his recognition that a strong public-private partnership is critical to combating this preventable disease, which kills 50,000 Americans each year,” said Fight Colorectal Cancer’s President Carlea Bauman.
In recognition of the start of Colorectal Cancer Month, Reps. Dent (PA-15), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (PA-8) and Donald Payne (NJ-10) introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4120) to correct an oversight in existing law that requires some Medicare beneficiaries to pay the coinsurance for their “free” colorectal cancer screening colonoscopy.
“For a Medicare beneficiary on a fixed income, the cost of coinsurance liability could be the deciding factor of whether to pursue a potentially life-saving screening colonoscopy,” said Rep. Dent. “Congress must correct current law to continue the great progress our nation has made in the fight against colorectal cancer.”
"Because of new opportunities through recent reforms, more people are taking advantage of preventive care services, and medical problems are being discovered and treated earlier and more efficiently," said Rep. Courtney. "Regular colonoscopies are an essential preventive care tool in the fight against colorectal cancer. In order to ensure that this care continues to be utilized, we must fix this language so that Medicare patients do not wind up with large unforeseen medical bills."
"This is a prime example of the kinds of inefficiencies which must be corrected as we work to reform our healthcare system,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Providing Medicare beneficiaries with access to the preventative care measures they have been promised will not only save the system money, but it will save lives.”
Currently, if a polyp is removed during a screening colonoscopy, the service is “reclassified” as therapeutic or diagnostic for Medicare billing purposes. As a result, beneficiary coinsurance is not waived for the screening service. Because there is no way of knowing in advance whether a polyp will be removed during a screening colonoscopy, a Medicare beneficiary cannot be certain their colonoscopy will be done without coinsurance liability, even though colorectal cancer screening is promoted as a “free” service under Medicare.
“Routine screening can prevent the majority of colorectal cancer cases,” continued Rep. Dent. “Yet, one in three adults age 50 to 75 is not up-to-date with their recommended screening. Ensuring more Americans are taking the necessary steps to prevent colorectal cancer will undoubtedly save lives.”
143,460 new cases of colorectal cancer are estimated to be diagnosed this year, likely resulting in approximately 50,000 deaths. Based on these estimates and past statistics, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. However, for most of the past two decades, colorectal cancer incidence rates have decreased, largely thanks to expanded use of screening colonoscopy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that if all precancerous polyps were identified and removed before becoming cancerous, the number of new colorectal cancer cases could be reduced by 76-90 percent.
H.R. 4120 is supported by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Fight Colorectal Cancer, the American College of Gastroenterology, the Colon Cancer Alliance, the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the Society for Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates, the Pennsylvania Society of Gastroenterology and the Digestive Disease National Coalition.
Rep. Dent is also the sponsor of H.R. 893, a bill to authorize the sale of a semipostal stamp to help fund colorectal cancer research conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).