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Medicare Will Cover Smokers’ Yearly Lung Cancer CT Scans

By , February 7th, 2015 | 11 Comments »

Medicare will now cover yearly ct scans for lung cancer for smokers

High medical costs and poor health outcomes in America compared to its global counterparts inspired our healthcare overhaul and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, and now a significant provision has been added.

According to NBC News, Medicare officials said Thursday that it would pay for lung cancer screens for people at the highest risk of becoming sick. Norman H. Edelman of the American Lung Association called this “an important victory. We’re delighted it has gone through, it’s going to save thousands of lives.”

Part of the delay in approving this provision has been the doubts of some physicians who questioned whether people would benefit from “pricey, computed tomography” scans. However, Medicare officials, the federal health insurance for individuals over 65, believes that the benefits are apparent. Already, many private insurance companies pay for lung cancer screening.

Furthermore, NBC has said experts believe that the screening test, which costs approximately $250-$300, may prevent as many as 20 percent of future deaths from lung cancer. Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer diagnosed. Thus, a 20 percent reduction in deaths means a significant number of saved lives. As of now, Medicare has decided to pay for a low-dose CT exam once a year for those 55-77 who have quit smoking in the last 15 years or are current smokers.

Beyond the lives saved, the decision by Medicare might also have a significant impact on the costs incurred by the federal government. As described in an issue of The Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, the average cost per-person for approximately 2 annual screens and the necessary follow-up for those without lung cancer was $453. For those with lung cancer, the costs rose to $2248. For individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, the mean per-person cost for “diagnostic workup, curative intent surgical treatment, and 2 years of follow-up” then rose to $33,344, whereas the costs for those with advanced-stage lung cancer rose to $47,792 because of the need for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other “supportive care.”

From these statistics, it becomes apparent that early screening in high-risk populations is an excellent mechanism to prevent lung cancer deaths, but it may also save federal dollars. As described by the authors of one of the studies, “If expensive targeted-therapies become widespread in the treatment of advanced, inoperable lung cancer, a screening program could potentially become cost saving while at the same time improving patient outcomes.” Of course decreasing the number of people who need to be screened by educating individuals about the perils of smoking, for example, is the most cost-effective measure; however, this might potentially be an important step toward saving human lives and federal funds.

(Photo courtesy of Morgan)

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  • Frank says:

    Shouldn’t there be some personal responsibility in these costs? Why should I have to pay for someone to get tests for their smoking when those smoking know it’s bad for them?

    • Betty says:

      Because if you give the screenings, you end up paying even more money on these people when they develop cancer. Sometime being preventative is the best way to save your tax money.

      • Smitty says:

        Sad but true – It is cheaper to pay for these screenings then the cancer latter.

      • Max says:

        Why do nonsmokers pay for either? If you want to poison yourself that is your prerogative, but you should have to bear any and all costs up to and including death.

        The same goes for obesity, alcohol, marijuana smokers, etc. etc. You have a personal choice about how to live, but you should have to take personal responsibility for the consequences of how you live up to and including death.

    • fazsha says:

      Why should I have to pay for someone who breaks their leg skiing, or mangles their shoulder while driving drunk, or ruptures their spleen playing football? Why is it only smokers where people start whining about personal responsibility? The reality is that some risks are ‘approved by society’ (skiing, hockey, bicycling) while some are ‘chastised by society’. You can say ‘no one goes skiing intending to break their leg’, but you know the risks are there, just as with smoking.

    • Cyrus says:

      Would you rather pay more to treat advanced cancer or pay less for early detection?

      Btw, I hope you don’t eat fatty foods, too much sugar, drive to fast, drink, participate in risky sports or hobbies, are over weight, because I’m sure no one wants to pay for your risky behavior.

  • joe says:

    Smokers pay all the taxes, why shouldn’t they get something out of it instead of obummer giving away the money to illegals?

  • Steve Smith says:

    I am a smoker! Yearly CT scans are not necessary and fall into the ACS and CDCs can of dangerous exams like the 3 year colonoscopies, their excessive use of xrays, and BP, CHolesteral drugs with liver, pancreas and joint damaging symptoms. The want to create cancers and organ failures in smokers where their are none. Lung cancer rates have dropped dramatically since asbestos regs started. Tobacco regs and taxes have reduced users but effectively has never nudged cancer rates. They are dying to tell smokers I told you so, because they make MO money from taxes and corporate donors who basically pay big medical fund raisers to blame anyone but them. Big media goes along because the get big portions for marketing, ads and production of those ads. Big Media hit the lottery with anti-tobacco ad bucks. As long as we need cars, building and manufacturing toxins and have asphaul roads, sewers that run into water sheds and asphault roads we will have cancers and as long as we breath and eat crap we will have respiratory illnesses, allergies and lung cancer. Unless investigative reporters start investigating groups like The American Cancer Society, Tobacco Free, ALA and the misinformation created by the CDC’s use of Tobacco Death Certificates. Until Big Media or Congress gets their hands out of our pockets and do their jobs, this smoking causes everything farce will continue.

    • Cyrus says:

      A chest CT scan is not considered dangerous by any medical association.

      A chest CT exposes you to about .7 rads far below any dangerous level.

  • ruben says:

    No one even mentioned radon….huh? Its not just about smokers….


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