Press Release

December 18, 2020
Cardin, Crapo, Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure Medicare Beneficiaries Receive Coverage for Cancer Detection Technologies
Bill ensures Medicare coverage for access to multi-cancer diagnostics and supports innovation in cancer diagnostic development

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have introduced S. 5051, the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, which would provide Medicare coverage for screening tests to save lives and costs to the health care system.  The bipartisan legislation would ensure Medicare beneficiaries have coverage for innovative tests that can detect multiple types of cancer before symptoms develop.

“Disparities in cancer treatment and outcomes persist in communities of color who experience higher rates of incidence and death.  One reason this disparity exists is because people of color have lower rates of routine cancer screening.  This legislation provides a pathway for multi-cancer screening technologies that would help increase cancer screening rates and reduce persistent racial disparities in treatment and outcomes by catching the disease before it progresses too far,” said Senator Cardin.

“Health care decisions should be the result of conversations between patients and their providers,” said Senator Crapo.  “When innovative items and services enter the health care marketplace, it is essential that Medicare provides patient access without delay.  Overly bureaucratic barriers to preventative care can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased health care costs.  The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would provide a Medicare coverage pathway for novel screening technologies, while relying on an evidence-based process that protects patients and taxpayers.  As we move into the 117th Congress, I will continue to advocate for policies that will improve the decision-making process for patients and their provider.”

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.  I know from personal experience that early detection can make all the difference,” said Senator Bennet.  “This legislation will ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the latest diagnostic technologies, which have enormous potential to save lives and costs to our health care system.

“More than 31,000 South Carolinians are diagnosed with cancer each year, with roughly two in five cases diagnosed during late stages.  By ensuring that seniors can access FDA-approved multi-cancer early detection tests, this bipartisan legislation has the potential to dramatically increase the survival rates for dozens of cancer-types, including those with few or no screening tests currently available,” said Senator Scott.  “As the Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Personalized Medicine Caucus, I am proud to champion innovative solutions  and tools that allow us to better target care, saving lives and long-term costs.”

“The burden of cancer in Idaho is severe, and healthcare providers here see more cases of late-stage cancer diagnoses than other states due, in part, to unique access challenges facing rural communities.  The earlier we catch cancer, the greater our chances of beating it.  That’s why these tests in development hold great promise for reducing the cancer burden.  However, even after they become FDA-approved, physicians and patients will face extreme barriers to their use.  Senator Crapo has always prioritized the health and well-being of patients in Idaho, and we applaud him for leading the way on multi-cancer early detection access,” said Caroline Merritt, Executive Director, Idaho Society of Clinical Oncology.

“The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would be a game changer in terms of early cancer detection.  Cancer is the leading cause of death in Colorado and having access to this new technology would save more lives.  As cancer risk increases as you age, making this technology accessible to Medicare beneficiaries is extremely important to ensure equitable health care and coverage,” said Christi Cahill, Executive Director, Colorado Cancer Coalition.

“By creating a pathway for Medicare to cover new, innovative, FDA-approved screening tests, this legislation would help provide more individuals with access to the screening tools they and their providers deem best for them.  Knowing that detecting cancer early improves outcomes, this legislation would help save lives and reduce health disparities,” said Lisa Lacasse, President, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“We cannot have 21st century medicine without 21st century diagnostics.  This bill provides for less intrusive methods that allow for earlier diagnosis when treatment is most effective.  This legislation is essential to protect the health of all Medicare beneficiaries; it also benefits the financial health of Medicare by providing care when it is less costly and more likely to result in positive outcomes for the person and their family,” said Jane L. Delgado, Ph.D., M.S., President and CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

“For 35 years, the Prevent Cancer Foundation has worked towards fulfilling the mission of saving lives across all populations through the prevention and early detection of cancer.  Multi-cancer screening tests are an exciting innovation that can save lives through the early detection of cancer and we must work to ensure coverage and access to these tests.  The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act is an important step towards providing coverage for multi-cancer screening tests for Medicare beneficiaries and we are grateful to Senators Bennet, Crapo, Cardin and Scott as lead sponsors on this bill,” said Jody Hoyos, Executive Vice President, Prevent Cancer Foundation.

“We, at the Cancer Support Community, are supportive of advancing promising technologies like multi-cancer early detection testing.  We will also continue our advocacy to ensure that patients can access and afford care and services across the cancer continuum including prevention, screening, early detection, treatment, and survivorship,” said Elizabeth Franklin, Executive Director, Cancer Policy Institute, Cancer Support Community. 

“When we have the opportunity to address inequities in healthcare through new technology, it is imperative that we do whatever we can to remove barriers to access.  Multi-cancer early detection is one such opportunity – a technology that could help address the entrenched disparity in cancer outcomes for communities of color and reduce patient risk across the board.  The legislation introduced today is a great step towards ensuring the benefits of multi-cancer detection can be achieved,” said Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., President and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum.    

Congress has previously acted before to ensure Medicare coverage for other cancer screenings, including mammography and colorectal screenings.  The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would:

  • Create authority for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover the latest diagnostic technologies, once approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including blood-based multi-cancer early detection tests and future test methods that draw on samples of urine or hair;
  • Maintain CMS authority to use an evidence-based process to determine coverage parameters for these new tests; and
  • State that new diagnostic technologies will supplement, not replace, existing screenings and will not impact existing coverage and cost-sharing. 

Under current law, Medicare only covers preventive services Congress has explicitly authorized, or the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended.  Without this legislation, it could take several years after FDA approval for Medicare to cover new early detection technologies for cancer.  To ensure timely, consistent coverage of screening items and services, the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would establish a defined benefit category and reduce such delays, returning health care decisions to providers and patients.  These new detection technologies will complement existing screenings and dramatically improve the country’s early detection capabilities for cancer.

The Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act has the support of a number of leading medical organizations, including: Idaho Society of Clinical Oncology, Colorado Cancer Coalition, Colorado Gerontological Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), Association of Community Cancer Centers, Cancer Support Community, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), Prevent Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen®.

The bill text is available HERE.