The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday finalized a preliminary ruling made in November on the use of CT scans to screen smokers for lung cancer. The plan looks almost identical to the one proposed, with one important change. The final plan increased the upper age limit from 74 to 77. The coverage begins immediately, and means Medicare beneficiaries aged 55 to 77 who smoked for at least 30 “pack years,” meaning the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, and who either currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.
Here’s a response to news from Chief Cancer Control Officer, Richard Wender, M.D.
“The American Cancer Society is pleased that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final decision providing coverage for lung cancer screening for appropriate high risk Medicare beneficiaries nationwide. The coverage decision requires that all centers providing screening implement a framework to ensure that high quality screening is provided to those individuals most likely to benefit from screening. This framework includes the requirement to provide smoking cessation support for individuals who are participating in screening and are still using tobacco.
“With this decision, Medicare policy is now in line with current guidelines and the recommendations of many interested advocacy and professional organizations, including the Society. Lung cancer screening is also covered by most commercial payers, thus bringing the nation much closer to being able to provide high quality screening for the thousands of current and former smokers who are at high risk for lung cancer.
“The American Cancer Society joined with several professional societies, including the American College of Radiology, the American Thoracic Society, and the American College of Chest Physicians to promote a quality framework that helped shape the CMS decision.
“We will now focus our efforts on helping the nation build capacity to deliver high quality screening in as many centers as possible so that high quality lung cancer screening is available to everyone who meets screening criteria. We are committed to serving as the convening organization for this capacity building work. The cooperation of many organizations to commit to and promote a quality framework signals a broad national commitment to delivering only high quality screening to the patients who are most likely to benefit.
“We join many others who share the hope that this decision will mean that many lives will be saved from a premature death related to lung cancer, and that many others will receive the information and help they may need to discontinue smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption.”