If you have a few minutes, please take the time to call your Congressional representative about H.R. 4120. This is a small provision introduced by Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and cosponsored by representatives of both parties (it actually made my day to see some evidence of real cooperation between parties, even if it is on an isolated issue). I can promise you that there’s no political controversy here. The bill is very simple – it proposes a waiver of coinsurance fees for Medicare patients whose screening colonoscopies involve the removal of a polyp.
In a nutshell, this is the problem:
There’s a provision in the Affordable Care Act that guarantees full coverage of preventive screening services such as mammograms and colonoscopies. That’s good. We want to remove barriers to those tests, to make them accessible to as many people as possible.
But here’s the catch. If, during the course of one of these screenings, a doctor finds a polyp, a lesion, or a mass that needs to be removed or biopsied, then some insurance companies consider the procedure a “treatment” rather than a screening, and copays can kick in. That sometimes means a surprise charge of a few hundred dollars – enough to deter some patients from having the test in the first place. This situation is confusing for doctors and patients, and really defeats the purpose of the “free screening” guarantee.
H.R. 4120 would remove that obstacle for Medicare patients, and because most people having colonoscopies are over 50, this is the critical patient population. Senior citizens shouldn’t have to worry about coverage for a potentially life-saving procedure.
The phone call takes about three minutes. I called my representative this morning and spoke with one of her aides, who was not familiar with the bill. I’m willing to bet that a series of calls within a few hours will make sure the issue gets some attention. The advocacy organization Fight Colorectal Cancer outlines the very simple steps for making the call on their website here. Click away, and thanks for taking the time to make the call.