Senators: CMS should expand coverage for CT lung cancer screening

Forty-four U.S. senators are asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand coverage of low-dose CT lung cancer screening.

In a recent letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the Senators--led by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)--call low-dose CT scans an "effective tool" for catching lung cancer early. "It is our hope that fully utilizing this screening tool as appropriately based on patient risk factors will help reduce the more than 156,000 deaths due to lung cancer in the United States each year," they said.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force gave low-dose CT screening its recommendation last year, but in April, CMS's Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee gave low-dose CT screening for high-risk individuals a low-confidence recommendation, calling into the question whether Medicare will end up covering those exams.

CMS plans to publish its proposed recommendations in November, but the senators are asking for the decision process to be expedited.

"With the median age of lung cancer diagnosis being age 70, it is essential that seniors on Medicare have access to this screening tool," they said. "The United States Preventive Services Task Force has already evaluated low-dose CT scans for high-risk patients and provides a positive recommendation for this screening tool. This means that patients with private insurance are gaining access but Medicare beneficiaries are still waiting.

"We urge you to expedite the NDC review and provide us with updates as this process moves forward."

To learn more:
- see the letter (.pdf)