Carroll D. Koscheski, MD, FACG
Carroll D. Koscheski, MD, FACG

The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) applaud 27 members of the U.S. Senate and 94 members of the U.S. House of Representatives for calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to consider the effect colonoscopy has had in reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer when determining whether a drastic reduction in Medicare payment for colonoscopy is justified.

The three gastroenterology societies, which together represent virtually every gastroenterologist in the nation, specifically thank Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), and Representatives Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) who championed these U.S. Senate and House letters to CMS.

From the Senate

Senator Ben Cardin: “Colonoscopies save lives and we want more Americans to opt for this highly effective method of colorectal cancer prevention,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee. “Thanks to increased screening rates, colorectal cancer incidence rates in the United States have dropped by more than 30 percent over the past decade.  We must avoid any action that could jeopardize the significant progress we’ve made.  Working together, we can reach HHS’s goal of an 80 percent screening rate by 2018.”

Senator Bill Cassidy, MD: “As a gastroenterologist, I know the value of improving colorectal cancer screening rates in Medicare. We must ensure that any changes made in Medicare reimbursement don’t hamper the progress made in cancer screening. These screenings help reduce the rate of colorectal cancer, which is devastating for patients, and costly to the system.”

Read the Senators’ letter to CMS

From the House

In the letter to their House colleagues, Reps. Payne, Jr. and Lance wrote, “…we are concerned that recent proposed cuts to lifesaving colonoscopy in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule could adversely impact our goal of screening more Americans and thus, preventing cancer.” CMS is proposing payment cuts for colonoscopy services ranging from 10 to 20 percent.

Read the Representatives’ letter to CMS

Tri-Society Message

On September 8, ACG, AGA, and ASGE submitted formal comments to CMS that include an in-depth and detailed review of CMS’ flawed methodologies and rationale for making these cuts.

From the letter:

“If unchanged, the proposed 2016 PFS rates for lower GI endoscopy procedures would cut physician work values for some colonoscopy procedures by up to 20 percent. It is short-sighted and counter-productive to propose policies that will undermine access to proven cancer prevention strategies and endanger all of the progress and current momentum we have made as a nation over the past two decades in our fight against colorectal cancer.”

The societies noted that the proposed cuts will have “a devastating effect on the U.S. population for generations to come, as well a for gastroenterology practices that provide this life-saving service.”

ASGE President Douglas O. Faigel, MD, FASGE: “On behalf of our patients, we are truly grateful that lawmakers in both houses of Congress heard and responded to our deep concerns about how steep payment cuts for providing colonoscopy services could harm Medicare beneficiary access to this vitally important and life-saving procedure.”

Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, FACG, President, American College of Gastroenterology: “It’s encouraging that Members of Congress share our concerns regarding the potential negative consequences of proposed fee cuts on colorectal cancer screening in Medicare and are willing to convey to CMS our mutual sense that progress in the fight against colorectal cancer could be threatened.”

Michael Camilleri, MD, AGAF, president, AGA Institute: “Colorectal cancer survivors know that colonoscopy saves lives. Physicians need policies that support preventive care to further decrease colorectal cancer mortality rates. Fortunately Senators Ben Cardin and Bill Cassidy, and Representatives Donald Payne Jr. and Leonard Lance, see that the proposed 2016 Medicare reimbursement cuts could limit patient access to colorectal cancer screening. We thank them for asking CMS to carefully consider stakeholder comments on the proposed rule and determine whether deep reductions in reimbursement rates are justified by the evidence and whether cuts are in the interests of Medicare beneficiaries.”

The three societies are hopeful that CMS will listen to the message of physicians and leaders in Congress. Cuts to colonoscopy services threaten patient access to this important and often life-saving procedure that is recommended for every person over age 50.  ACG, AGA and ASGE will continue to advocate for fair and adequate reimbursement for these services.

More information about the value of colorectal cancer screening and prevention can be found at