A Medical Device Daily

The prevalence of colorectal cancer (CRC), not to mention the high mortality rate associated with the disease, has the attention of both medical professionals and lawmakers, hence the reintroduction of a bill that would back the concerns with federal tax dollars.

Rep. Kay Granger, (R-Texas) has introduced the Colorectal Cancer Prevention, Early Detection, and Treatment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1189) to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would essentially parallel a bill that made the rounds in the 110th Congress by the same name with the exception of the date designation, which was 2007. In its current form, the bill would provide $50 million for programs that provide screening and treatment for the disease with a special emphasis on low-income Americans and those with no insurance or inadequate insurance. By 2013, the funding would rise to $250 million.

The bill has the support of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN; Atlanta), which issued a Feb. 27 statement by Robert Youle, chairman of the ACSCAN board of directors. Youle states that given that "colon cancer screening could actually prevent cancer by detection and removal of premalignant polyps, the programs initiated by this legislation could potentially save thousands of lives, avoid suffering due to cancer treatments, reduce the burden of cancer costs and prevent many colon cancer cases and deaths altogether."

Youle also states that with early diagnosis, the disease has a five-year survival rate of 90%, but survival at five years drops to 10% for late-stage detection. The association's numbers indicate that colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, with roughly 148,000 Americans diagnosed each year.

Granger's bill would help cover screening and treatment for those aged 50 and over at typical risk for the disease and anyone under the age of 50 who has a demonstrated risk. H.R. 1189 would also give states the option of using Medicaid monies for residents under the age of 65 who lack sufficient coverage to deal with the cost of treatment and follow-up.

It is not clear if the bill includes funding for the screening of CRC with computerized tomography, which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed not to cover last month (Medical Device Daily, Feb. 13, 2009). This decision, CMS said, was due to, among other things, concerns of exposure to X-radiation as well as questions about the clinical study patient population which was considerably younger than the Medicare aged population

Beneficiary sues to avoid Medicare

Given all the sturm und drang over Medicare costs, one would think that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would be happy to allow a Social Security beneficiary to opt out of Medicare in favor of his own coverage. But a recent court case shows that one would be mistaken to think that.

After decades of service at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Brian Hall retired in 2006 at the age of 62. Hall signed up to collect Social Security benefits, but opted to maintain the health coverage he'd had via the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which has often been touted as a model for nationalized healthcare.

Now that Hall has hit the age of 65, CMS wants him to enroll in Medicare or lose his Social Security benefits and repay the benefits he's received over the past three years. Hall is one of five who are suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the matter in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In another delicious irony, the suit names Tom Daschle as the defendant as the Secretary of Health and Human Services despite that the former South Dakota Democrat never actually held the position for even a day. CMS does give Hall the option of avoiding Medicare's notorious Part B program, but the requirement that he enroll in Part A would override his FEHBP coverage for hospitalization, a prospect he and his co-litigants evidently are not pleased with.

Court documents indicate that Hall sought a temporary restraining order on HHS, but the judge supervising the case, Rosemary Collyer, denied that motion. However, while she also acknowledged the procedural bind the agency is in, Collyer nonetheless comments: "It is passing strange that SSA insists that all persons receiving Social Security retirement benefits, a federal program that is running out of money, also must be part of Medicare Part A, another federal program that overruns budgets."

AdvaMed seeks proposals

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed; Washington) is looking for panel submissions for its AdvaMed 2009 conference, scheduled for Oct. 12-14 in Washington. In a March 3 statement, the association said that it seeks ideas for educational panels that will run about 75 minutes and will deal with any one of a number of topics, including reimbursement, legal and intellectual property, regulatory developments, and emerging company issues.

AdvaMed's President/CEO Stephen Ubl said in the statement that input on these sessions from industry "ensures world-class educational panels that truly meet the interests of conference attendees."

Submissions will be evaluated based on relevance and timeliness as well as the educational value and, of course, panel expertise. Anyone wishing to file a submission should do so by April 1 at the advamed2009.com web site. According to the statement, submissions from AdvaMed members will be reviewed first.

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