Colonoscopies can help save lives

To the Editor:

As a cancer survivor, I’ve seen how a cancer diagnosis changes your life and the lives of those around you.

Congress has an opportunity to prevent more people from hearing the words, "you have cancer." They can do this by passing legislation to close a loophole that currently deters seniors from getting potentially lifesaving colonoscopies. While individuals on private health care plans have their colonoscopies covered as a preventive service, this loophole causes individuals on Medicare to be charged for the colonoscopy if a polyp is found and removed during the procedure. As a family physician, I have seen firsthand how this potential cost prevents seniors from getting their vital screening.

This screening is proven to save lives – in fact if everyone over the age of 50 received recommended colon cancer screenings, we could prevent half of all colorectal cancer deaths. Ensuring seniors have the same access to cancer screenings as individuals on private health insurance plans is the right thing to do. That’s why I recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, and Congressman Frank Guinta to support the bipartisan legislation currently in Congress and get it passed this year.

Our lawmakers have a responsibility to make getting a colonoscopy just as affordable for seniors as it is for others. In doing so, they could potentially save thousands of lives, reduce suffering and reduce Medicare’s cancer costs.

Dr. Carolyn Claussen

Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network