Gastroenterologists and physician groups ask CMS to cover virtual colonoscopy: 6 points

The American College of Radiology, Colon Cancer Alliance, Colon Cancer Coalition and Prevent Cancer Foundation, among others, have asked CMS to cover seniors for virtual colonoscopy.

Here are six points about virtual colonoscopy, which is also known as CT colonography:

1. It is a less invasive colorectal cancer screening option than optical colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy, for example, does not require sedation — so patients can resume their daily activities after the procedure.

2. Since it is less invasive, virtual colonoscopy has been shown to increase screening rates.

3. It is comparably accurate to optical colonoscopy in most adults, according to a 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

4. The United States Preventive Services Task Force's colorectal cancer screening recommendation statement assigned the organization's highest rating — an "A" grade — to colorectal screening techniques, including virtual colonoscopy.

5. Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to cover procedures with an "A" grade, meaning that virtual colonoscopy will soon be covered with no co-pay. CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield already cover virtual colonoscopy.

6. Screening Medicare patients with virtual colonoscopy would reduce colorectal cancer screening costs by 29 percent and save Medicare up to $1.7 billion per screening cycle, according to a 2015 study in Abdominal Imaging.

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