The end-of-year package passed by Congress and signed by the president during the final days of 2020 contained a piece of legislation that takes one of those much-needed steps to improve equitable access to care — one we’ve been pushing for years. After nearly a decade of tireless advocacy from our organizations’ staff and volunteers, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, nicknamed the “Medicare Loophole” bill, finally made it across the finish line.

Colorectal cancer is estimated to kill more than 53,000 Americans this year alone. But with recommended screening, this disease is preventable. That’s one of the reasons the Affordable Care Act required that health insurance plans cover screening colonoscopies without cost sharing. But the law created a loophole when it came to Medicare coverage: if a polyp was found and removed, the procedure was no longer considered “screening” and the patient faced an unexpected charge which could amount to hundreds of dollars. The expense created a major barrier to this lifesaving screening for those who are most at risk for colorectal cancer. Since risk increases with age, we knew this loophole could be the difference between life and death.

Our advocates are catalysts for real change. Take the 20-year-old daughter of a stage III colorectal cancer survivor, Libby, for example. Libby began advocating for this bill when she was in elementary school. She had formed a relationship with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), reaching out to his office every year to advocate for the bill. In 2019, she emailed Brown asking him to reintroduce the bill in the new Congress, she received a quick response confirming he would do it alongside several co-sponsors.

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