Preventive low-dose CT screening for patients at high risk for lung cancer would be covered by federal health insurance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed today.
CMS said it would cover the annual screenings for patients ages 55 to 74 with at least 30 "pack-years" of smoking history, current smokers or smokers who quit in the last 15 years.
The low-dose CT screening would be available to asymptomatic patients with a written prescription after a "lung cancer screening counseling and shared decision making visit" with a physician or another qualified evaluator, such as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. Subsequent screenings would be approvable by the same and by counselors trained to help patients kick the habit, CMS said.
The decision, which is still subject to a 30-day comment period before being finalized, was met with immediate approval today from the American Medical Assn. and others.
"Today’s proposal by Medicare will save lives, increasing the low survival rates associated with lung cancer, our nation’s leading cancer killer," American Lung Assn. president & CEO Harold Wimmer said in prepared remarks.
"CMS got it right," said Lori Fenton-Ambrose, president & CEO of the Lung Cancer Alliance, according to MedPage Today. "The time to move forward and educate those at risk, especially our seniors, is now."
The American Thoracic Society and the American College of Chest Physicians also had kudos for the CMS move.
"Low-dose CT has been shown to reduce mortality when used to screen individuals who are at high risk for developing lung cancer because of their age and smoking history," said Dr. Charles Powell, chairman of the American Thoracic Society’s thoracic oncology assembly. "Thoughtful implementation of lung cancer screening with strict attention to monitoring of screening program adherence to standards for centers of excellence and with routine utilization of smoking cessation and multidisciplinary management will help to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of screening."