Press Release

May 27, 2021
Cardin, Crapo, Bennet, Scott Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Ensure Medicare Beneficiaries Receive Coverage for Cancer Detection Technologies
Supports innovation in cancer diagnostic development and Medicare coverage for access to multi-cancer diagnostics

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), members of the Senate Finance Committee, reintroduced S. 1873 the Medicare 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,” said Senator Cardin.  “One reason this disparity exists is because people of color have lower rates of routine cancer screening.  As routine cancer screenings declined during the pandemic, I am proud to support this legislation to provide a pathway for multi-cancer screening technologies that would help increase cancer screening rates and reduce persistent racial disparities in treatment and outcomes.”

“Overly-bureaucratic barriers to preventive care can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased health care costs,” said Senator Crapo. “Health care decisions should be the result of conversations between patients and their providers, and it is essential Medicare provides patients access to innovative items and services entering the health care marketplace as soon as they are available. Bipartisan legislation is needed to both protect patients and taxpayers.”

“Early detection, multi-cancer tools will revolutionize our approach to cancer screening, save costs to our health care system, and most important, save countless lives,” said Senator Bennet.  “I’m pleased to join this effort to ensure that our most vulnerable have access to these innovative tests for early cancer detection under Medicare.”

“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 Tim 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.”

Congress has previously acted before to ensure Medicare coverage for other cancer screenings, including mammography and colorectal screenings.  The Medicare 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;
  • State that new diagnostic technologies will supplement, not replace, existing screenings and will not impact existing coverage and cost-sharing; and
  • Direct the Government Accountability Office to issue a report that tracks utilization and makes recommendations to expand usage.

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 Medicare 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 Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act has the support of over 300 leading health care organizations across the United States.  Representative Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) introduced similar bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill text is available HERE.