November 2014 – Medicare’s proposed computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening coverage would provide high-risk seniors with access to care that can save more lives than any cancer screening test in history.
“CT lung cancer screening is the first and only cost-effective test proven to significantly reduce lung cancer deaths. Medicare coverage provides access to care for seniors and will help physicians save thousands of lives each year from the nation’s leading cancer killer,” said Ella Kazerooni, M.D., FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening Committee and American College of Radiology Thoracic Imaging Panel.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended (with a Grade of “B”) CT lung cancer screening of adults aged 55-80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) narrowed coverage to those ages 55-741 and will require providers to submit clinical and follow-up data to an approved registry. The ACR will apply to be a Medicare recognized registry and will work with stakeholders to submit comments regarding the details of the CMS coverage announcement.
Significant lung cancer screening infrastructure is growing quickly to meet the need for this important public health measure. Medical experts and patient advocates recently outlined infrastructure and quality assurance programs to support screening.
This includes the American College of Radiology (ACR) Lung Cancer Screening Center program, which helps ensure these exams are provided safely and effectively. ACR Lung-RADS standardizes CT lung cancer screening reporting and management, aids lung CT interpretation and supports outcomes monitoring.
“We strongly advise older current and former heavy smokers to speak with their doctors about whether CT lung cancer screening is right for them. If they and their doctor decide that screening is warranted, we encourage patients to seek out an ACR lung cancer screening center,” said Kazerooni.
With the USPSTF recommendation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires private insurers to cover CT lung cancer screening as an essential health benefit. Today’s decision ensures Medicare beneficiaries have access to these services as well.
“Lung cancer will kill 160,000 Americans this year – more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Medicare coverage of these exams helps complete the first major blow against this terrible disease. This is a great day for those at high-risk for lung cancer and their families. We look forward to a future where a lung cancer diagnosis is no longer essentially a death sentence for so many people,” said Kazerooni.
More than 220,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Nearly 160,000 people will die from the disease.