Washington -- U.S. Representative Barbara Cubin (R-WY) introduced legislation yesterday to increase patient access to a new and innovative screening test for colorectal cancer that has the potential to save thousands of lives.
Cubin introduced H.R. 4879, the Virtual Screening for Cancer Act (VSCA) of 2007. Cubin's bill includes Computed Tomography Colonography (CTC) as a colorectal screening test covered under the Medicare program. CTC, more commonly referred to as Virtual Colonoscopy, offers a non-invasive and cost-effective means of detecting colon cancer.
"Americans are incredibly fortunate to live in a time where advancements in technology give us the ability to detect diseases, improve treatment options and save lives, all by taking pictures of the human body," Cubin said. "Virtual colonoscopies are at the forefront of this transformation in modern medicine and I believe it is critical that Medicare beneficiaries across the country have access to this exam."
In addition to expanding Medicare coverage to virtual colonoscopies, Cubin's bill will make the exam part of the "Welcome to Medicare" program. This means Medicare beneficiaries would have their co-pays for virtual colonoscopies waived when the exam is conducted within the first six months of the beneficiaries' enrollment in Medicare, just as is currently done for colonoscopies and mammograms.
Virtual colonoscopy is a medical imaging procedure that uses x-rays and computers to produce two- and three-dimensional images of the colon. Patients go through a scanner first on their back and then on their stomachs, which takes approximately ten minutes. Since the exam is far less invasive than traditional methods used to detect colon and bowel diseases, patients do not require sedatives to undergo the exam. Recent scientific literature suggests that virtual colonoscopy, as a front-line screening method, is a cost-effective complement to the traditional colonoscopies that are still necessary to remove dangerous colon polyps when they are detected.
"Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States today," Cubin said. "Early detection is the most effective method we have to combat this killer. Unfortunately, too many Americans shy away from traditional colonoscopy exams because of the discomfort associated with it. Virtual colonoscopies provide a more comfortable screening alternative that will lead to more patients getting the treatment they need."
Cubin, a Member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, worked with the medical community to craft this legislation. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY) joined Cubin as an original co-sponsor of her bill.