Senators push for Medicare to cover lung cancer test

Forty-four senators have asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand coverage for an early lung-cancer screening test under Medicare.

The effort is being led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

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“[W]hen cancer is caught early patients have the best chance of survival,” said the lawmakers in a letter dated Wednesday to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

They called on the CMS to speed up approval for low-dose CT scans to be covered by Medicare.

“Fortunately, low-dose CT scans have been found to be an effective tool in catching lung cancer early,” said the letter.

“It is our hope that fully utilizing this screening tool as appropriate based on patient risk factors will help reduce the more than 156,000 deaths due to lung cancer in the United States each year.”

The lawmakers said a task force has already recommended the screening for high-risk patients. Patients with private insurance already have access to the tests, but Medicare recipients are still waiting for CMS’s approval.

“With the median age of lung cancer diagnosis being age 70, it is essential that seniors on Medicare have access to this screening tool,” the senators said.