Don’t leave CTC bill hanging

Earlier this year, Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced H.R. 991, the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act of 2013. The legislation would provide Medicare coverage to CT colonography (CTC) for colorectal cancer screening.

“By providing Medicare coverage for patient-friendly CT colonography exams, we can increase the number of Americans screened for colon cancer, save billions of dollars in treatment, prevent unnecessary deaths, and continue future coverage of this disease,” said Hall in a statement.

After being introduced on March 6, the bill seemed to have some traction and bipartisan support. It was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees. There has been no additional movement since.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because this is how far the previous attempt to extend Medicare coverage for screening with CTC managed to progress. The CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act of 2012, also introduced by Hall, died in committee when the congressional session ended last year.

CTC for colorectal cancer screening is already being covered by some major private payers, including CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare and some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. Still, Medicare remains a major missing link since screening most benefits those over 50, and Medicare’s over-65 beneficiaries may be interested in a noninvasive alternative to conventional optical colonoscopy. A study published in the June 2012 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology found that patients who have experienced both CTC and optical colonoscopy prefer the former.

Broader coverage of CTC also has the support of a number of organizations, including the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society and the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA).

“CT colonography has proven to increase compliance in patients who otherwise would avoid a diagnostic procedure that saves lives,” said MITA’s Executive Director, Gail Rodriguez, in the statement.

Hopefully the 2013 version of the CTC coverage bill doesn’t suffer the same fate as the 2012 version. Colorectal cancer has high survival rate when detected early, yet it is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with 50,000 dying each year.

Patients need more screening options, not more legislative delays.