HHS and AGA Continue Collaboration to Combat GI Public Health Conditions
HHS Assistant Secretary Howard Koh spoke with AGA leaders during DDW® about the importance of collaborating with the AGA and other GI societies to help improve screening, detection and treatment of colorectal cancer and hepatitis B and C. Secretary Koh is a tremendous advocate for the GI community through his dedication to improving screening and initiating demonstration projects to help improve access for underserved populations.
Improving Access to Colorectal Cancer Screening
One in three Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 is not being screened for colorectal cancer despite the fact that it is a mandated benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has been a preventive benefit for Medicare since the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Although there are many screening tests covered under the ACA, Dr. Koh stressed that the best screening test is the one that gets done. HHS is very committed to improving screening rates and has partnered with the GI community and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable to reach the goal of screening 80 percent of the population by 2018. In order to reach this goal, he said, we must continue to work together on ways to reach populations that may not otherwise get screened. The partnership that HHS has initiated with the community health centers, patient navigators, Walgreens and the GI community is critical. The community health centers play a key role given that they are often the entry point to the health-care system for many patients, including the underserved, uninsured and underinsured. The community health centers are committed to helping track screening rates, which will be essential to determining the impact of the demonstration project.
Dr. Koh also emphasized that in addition to collaborating with the GI community and other stakeholders, HHS is committed to promoting collaboration within the department among CMS, NIH, FDA and HRSA. Dr. Koh stated that he is aware that the AGA, ACG and ASGE are meeting with CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to discuss the important role that colonoscopy has played in helping to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer and the need to continue to partner with CMS on insuring access to CRC screening, improving quality and efficiency of care, and improving transparency around how the agency makes changes to physician values. Colonoscopy is currently under review, and we are asking that CMS give us the opportunity to participate in the regulatory process by publishing any changes to the rates in the proposed rule.
Dr. Koh discussed how the ACA created the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which funds alternative payment models. AGA leaders noted that we have met with the agency to discuss our colonosocpy bundle initiative, which we believe will help improve quality and efficiency for the Medicare program and, potentially, other payors.
We appreciate that Dr. Koh was able to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with us and we look forward to our continued collaboration with HHS on improving access, detection and treatment of colorectal cancer screening and hepatitis B and C.