Press Release

September 10, 2007
Medicare website lists incorrect benefit information

U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin,
D-MD, today called on Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to correct erroneous information on the web site about  the program’s colorectal cancer screening benefits.


In 1997, then-Rep. Cardin led the fight to add coverage of preventive benefits to traditional Medicare.   Last year, the President signed legislation that eliminated the requirement for beneficiaries to satisfy the $131 annual Part B deductible before receiving colorectal cancer screening tests, effective January 1, 2007.  The web site, despite a statement indicating that it was last updated on September 7, 2007, does not reflect this important change in law.


“We know that early detection of colorectal cancer saves lives.  Our seniors need to know that this financial barrier has been erased,” said Senator Cardin. “Medicare beneficiaries still have high out-of-pocket costs for medical care, and elimination of the deductible requirement will help them get screened earlier.”


According to the National Cancer Institute, over 147,000 new cases are diagnosed and more than 57,000 people die from colorectal cancer each year.  Screening can greatly improve chances of identifying pre-cancerous and cancerous cells before they develop into a more deadly form of the disease.


The 2006 provision was originally introduced as part of the “Colon Cancer Screen for Life Act of 2005,” bipartisan legislation that Senator Cardin has reintroduced in the 110
th Congress.   His bill would reverse declining reimbursements for colorectal cancer tests and encourage greater participation in the benefit.


Text of the letter below:


The Honorable Michael Leavitt

Secretary of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC  20201


Dear Mr. Secretary:


I write to request that you correct erroneous information about Medicare’s colon cancer screening benefit found on the

web site.


When the colorectal cancer screening benefit was originally established in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, benefits were subject to the annual Medicare Part B deductible. However, Section 5113 of the
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171), which President Bush signed it into law on February 8, 2006, eliminates the requirement for beneficiaries to satisfy the Part B deductible with respect to colorectal cancer screening tests, effective January 1, 2007.


However, the “Colon Cancer Screening ” page of the web site has not been amended to reflect that change in statute.  As of today, it still reads,
“(y)ou pay nothing for the fecal occult blood test. For all other tests, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.  If the flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is done in a hospital outpatient department, you pay 25% of the Medicare approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.”


Because the number of Medicare beneficiaries receiving colon cancer screenings has increased only marginally since the enactment of the benefit, it is imperative that CMS provide up-to-date information regarding benefit improvements, in particular those that will encourage greater participation.   Therefore, I urge you to update the

web site as soon as possible to reflect the non-applicability of the Part B deductible to these services.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.