The Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act will give seniors timely access to innovative cancer screening
May 8, 2023
AUSTIN — Leading Texas health care and patient advocacy organizations today praised U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock for reintroducing legislation that would give America’s seniors timely access to ground-breaking multi-cancer early detection (MCED) screening tests.
The Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act (H.R. 2407) would allow Medicare to cover MCED blood-based screening tests once FDA approved and clinical benefit is shown. Otherwise, the Medicare population could wait years for coverage.
The organizations – Regarding Cancer, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Texas Rural Health Association (TRHA) and the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute (THBI) – noted the tremendous promise of MCED screening tests as well as the legislation’s ability to improve health care access for seniors and rural communities. Rep. Arrington is the lead Republican co-sponsor of the legislation in the U.S. House.
“Today, the most common screenings only test for five types of cancer, which means most patients only realize they have cancer once symptoms appear,” said James Gray, Senior Government Relations Director of ACS CAN Texas. “MCED has the potential to discover cancer before symptoms are detected and can be a game-changer for health care in this country. We applaud Rep. Arrington for recognizing what’s at stake and continuing to advocate for seniors.”
Victoria Ford, president and CEO of THBI, said earlier detection of cancer would broadly result in better patient outcomes, less invasive treatments and reduced treatment costs. “Currently, only 14% of cancers are found through screenings,” Ford said. “But multi-cancer early detection tests can screen for many cancers simultaneously and will complement existing screenings.”
“Passage of this legislation is vital because seniors are at the greatest risk of cancer,” Ford added. “Seventy percent of cancer diagnoses are those covered by Medicare. Without Congressional action, those at highest risk for cancer will be last in line for access to these new MCED screening tools.”
According to the American Cancer Society, every day more than 1,600 Americans die from cancer, and seniors account for 70 percent of all cancer-related deaths. If approved by the FDA, MCED has the potential to detect cancer at its earliest stages when the disease is less expensive to treat and survival more likely.
“Roughly seven out of 10 cancer deaths come from a type of cancer for which there has been no screening until now, and seniors have cancer more than any other group,” said Diana Dobson, executive director of Regarding Cancer. “Imagine if they had access to screening for dozens of cancer types from a single blood draw. We thank Rep. Arrington for reintroducing this legislation and taking the steps necessary to make MCED screening accessible.”
In the previous Congress, this legislation received enthusiastic bipartisan support, with more than 300 total co-sponsors, and support from more than 400 organizations across Texas and the United States. U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell of Alabama, Richard Hudson of North Carolina and Raul Ruiz of California are also co-sponsoring the legislation.
“Cancer is a nonpartisan issue. And this legislation is about lives and health, not Republican and Democrat,” said Mike Easley, TRHA president. “With nearly one in five Americans living in a rural area, cancer care challenges have broad impacts on the nation’s overall health. According to a recent report from The National Grange, cancer deaths in rural areas are 14% higher than in urban areas.”
“We are proud of Rep. Arrington for leading the charge to ensure Medicare patients can have timely access to life-saving MCED screenings, and we are thankful to his fellow Republican and Democrat colleagues who are also sponsoring this legislation that offers new hope for further reducing rural cancer disparities in the future,” Easley said.