When a massive clinical trial about lung
cancer screening shows a benefit to current and former smokers, why can it
take so long to become accessible for most people?
A draft recommendation by a federal task force in favor of
using low-dose CT scans to screen past and current heavy smokers for lung
cancer provides insight about the time lag.
The recommendation says that low-dose spiral CT lung cancer
screening is only appropriate for those who:
• Are 55 to 80 years old
• Have a 30-pack-year history of smoking (which translates to 1 pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
• Smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
"The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's recommendation
is a great step forward for this life-saving screening," says Reginald
Munden, M.D., professor of Diagnostic Radiology.
companies expected to cover CT lung cancer screening for smokers
The task force carefully sorts the pros and cons of a
preventive procedure before recommending for or against. Its rulings are highly
influential, so both governmental and private health insurers tend to wait for
its recommendations before deciding whether to pay for a procedure, Munden
The task force's recommended B rating for the procedure,
subject to a comment period that ends Aug. 26, is significant. Right now, 95%
of the people who want screening have to pay for it out-of-pocket, because only
two health insurance companies cover it. Medicare and Medicaid don't reimburse
for it, but the task force's recommendation is expected to change that.
"The implications are huge," says Therese Bevers, M.D.,
medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer
Prevention Center. "Health plans, under the Affordable Care Act, are
required to cover any screening or service given an A or B rating by the U.S.
Preventive Services Task Force. They're not only required to cover it, but to
cover it without any co-payment or deductible so the patient is able to get
this at no out-of-pocket cost."
Continue reading Lung cancer screening for smokers moves toward standard of care.