This Week – March 22, 2014

This Week in Washington DC:

  1. ACG Leaders at the White House
  2. Please Contact Congress: ACG Working to Promote Transparency and Protect GI Reimbursement

ACG Takes Its Advocacy to the White House: 80% Screening Rate by 2018

On both Monday, March 17th and Wednesday, March 19th, leaders from ACG met with White House officials, touting the public heath success story of colorectal cancer screening and urging the Administration to help increase awareness and colorectal cancer screening rates.

On Monday, ACG Past President Ron Vender, MD, FACG was invited to meet with White House officials and later speak to a crowd at the National Press Club. Dr. Vender joined the American Cancer Society, federal policy makers, and other interested stakeholders to tout the recent findings on lower colorectal cancer incidence and death rates in the U.S. from colonoscopy and other screening modalities.

ACG joined members of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT, an organization co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to focus efforts over the next four years on dramatically increasing colorectal cancer screening rates and awareness in all health care settings, including community health centers. Dozens of organizations have already pledged to embrace the shared goal of increasing national colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% by 2018.

In speaking to the audience of stakeholders and media, Dr. Vender said the U.S. is the only country that can claim both the incidence of the disease and numbers of deaths are falling. Yet more needs to be done.

“Language, lack of transportation, and cultural issues remain as obstacles, he said – as does money. Medicare patients do not have coverage for an office visit prior to a colonoscopy,” he said. “Significantly, a colonoscopy following a detection of blood on a fecal occult blood test is not currently recognized as part of a screening continuum and therefore is not a fully covered benefit.”

Dr. Vender also referred to the “post-polypectomy surprise” that adds an additional financial burden to patients who’ve had polyps removed. This is one reason why ACG continues to urge Congress to pass the SCREEN Act (S. 608 / H.R. 1320) despite the divisive political environment on Capitol Hill. This bill improves quality of care in our specialty, lowers patient barriers to life-saving colorectal cancer screening, yet also strives to ensure Medicare reimbursement for colonoscopy is fair.

Ronald Vender, MD, FACG (second row; second from left) at the White House on Monday, March 17th

On Wednesday, ACG Trustee David A. Greenwald, MD, FACG was part of a group of national colorectal cancer advocates who visited the White House for a tour and photo convened by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and the American Cancer Society.

David Greenwald, MD, FACG (front row and center) at the White House on Wednesday, March 19th

ACG thanks Drs. Vender and Greenwald for their tireless efforts to increase colorectal cancer awareness and screening rates. They continue to sacrifice personal and professional time to work with patient advocacy groups and government officials to increase screening rates and mitigate colon cancer.

ACG Members: Contact Congress Today and Urge Them to Sign the Cassidy Letter!

ACG and the GI societies continue to fight significant cuts to the 2014 Medicare reimbursement rates for upper GI endoscopy services. The societies are disputing the validity of the cuts, which CMS announced last year just weeks before they went into effect, without the opportunity for public comment.

The GI societies have engaged the help of Congress to avoid future eleventh hour changes to our reimbursement. It’s critical that we improve the transparency of a process that impacts millions of Medicare beneficiaries and practices across the country.

Representative Bill Cassidy, MD, FACG (R-LA) has asked his House colleagues to join him on a letter to CMS requesting that the agency make reimbursement decisions in a transparent manner. Colonoscopy codes are currently under review for 2015, so the stakes are high.

We need your help! Contact your representative and urge them to sign on to this letter.

It is vital that CMS announce reimbursement cuts earlier in the process to allow stakeholders ample time to adequately analyze and appropriately comment on pending changes before final cuts are made. Earlier publication of reimbursement changes will afford our societies more time to educate physicians and policy makers about changes in reimbursement that could affect their business operations and health care services.

Increased transparency is an important step in reversing upper GI cuts and preparing for potential cuts to lower GI procedures, which we won’t be aware of until CMS announces policy changes in the payment regulations. Dr. Cassidy’s letter will afford all specialty societies more time to analyze and respond appropriately with data to CMS’ proposed reimbursement determinations, or would help garner more congressional support if CMS chooses to wait until November again to announce significant payment changes.

Thank you for lending your voice to this very important effort.

Please stay tuned for further updates. Please also share and discuss your thoughts with fellow ACG members on the ACG GI Circle. To login and share your comments, go to and sign in as a member. Once you have done so, click here and then click the orange "Visit ACG GI Circle" button to be taken to the GI Circle site. If you have not yet activated your ACG GI Circle account, please email us at

Contact Brad Conway, VP Public Policy, with any questions or for more information.

Brad Conway