Medicare will cover the full cost of colonoscopy after a positive noninvasive fecal test beginning in 2023, largely in response to a year-long advocacy campaign.
The benefit expansion is a “huge win” for patients, according to the American Gastroenterological Association, because it represents the end of out-of-pocket costs for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening.
“The continuum is complete!” said John Inadomi, MD, AGAF, past president of the AGA and a champion of the initiative within the organization.
Colonoscopy after a positive fecal test was previously considered a diagnostic procedure and therefore not considered part of the screening process by the Affordable Care Act, allowing payers to charge patients. That is, until the AGA and partners, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Fight Colorectal Cancer, pushed back. First, the organizations successfully campaigned to ensure that private payers would cover the follow-up procedure. Now, after multiple meetings with the United States Department of Health & Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, their collaborative efforts will end screening costs for patients with Medicare, pending finalization of the rule this fall. If finalized, it will take effect Jan. 2, 2023.
The policy change will “directly advance health equity” the AGA said, particularly among “rural communities and communities of color,” which are disproportionally affected by CRC.
“Cost-sharing is a well-recognized barrier to screening and has resulted in disparities,” said David Lieberman, MD, AGAF, who met with the CMS multiple times on behalf of the AGA. “Patients can now engage in CRC screening programs and be confident that they will not face unexpected cost-sharing for colonoscopy after a positive noninvasive screening test.”
AGA president John Carethers, MD, AGAF, who also met with the CMS, noted that reducing barriers to CRC screening will ultimately reduce CRC mortality.
“This is a win for all patients and should elevate our nation’s screening rates while lowering the overall cancer burden, saving lives,” he said.
Dr. Inadomi, Dr. Carethers, and Dr. Lieberman serve on the scientific advisory board of Geneoscopy; Dr. Lieberman is also on the scientific advisory board for ColoWrap.