USA Congress urged to approve Medicare payment for Virtual Colonocopy Screening for the general population

By staff writers

Encouraged by a new study confirming virtual colonoscopy’s utility in seniors, the American College of Radiology (ACR) has joined with screening advocacy group Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) to urge the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that would require Medicare payment for screening.

The CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act (HR 4165) would amend the Social Security Act to add screening virtual colonoscopy (also known as CT colonography or CTC) as a covered colorectal cancer screening test under Medicare.

The bill was introduced March 8 by U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and currently has 18 co-sponsors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied coverage of screening CTC in May 2009, and since then, advocates of the exam have been promoting virtual colonoscopy as a screening option on several fronts, including through congressional action.

A study published June 29 in the American Journal of Roentgenology reconfirmed the utility of screening VC in the Medicare-aged population.

The exam is recommended by the American Cancer Society as a screening test, and major insurers, including Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, now cover it, said ACR Board of Chancellors Chair Dr. Paul Ellenbogen in a statement.

Many American seniors lack access to VC because it is not covered under Medicare, an alarming situation considering that the exam has the potential to boost screening rates and ultimately save lives, the Colon Cancer Alliance said.

Currently, only about two-thirds of eligible individuals 50 and older ever get screened, and studies show that access to virtual colonoscopy could boost screening participation, according to the alliance.