Insurance Coverage of Critical Screening Could Improve Survival Rates for Lung Cancer Patients
Louisville, Ky. (January 29, 2015) – Kentucky leads the nation in lung cancer deaths, but insurance coverage of a new screening tool will help physicians diagnose lung cancer at earlier stages.
Beginning this month, many health insurers will cover low-dose computed tomography (LDCT or low-dose CT), a lung cancer screening option for high-risk beneficiaries. Low-dose CT screening is an important tool in early detection, as well as in reducing deaths from lung cancer.
Low-dose CT is recommended for adults ages 55 to 74 years old who currently smoke, have a 30 pack-year smoking history or who have quit the habit within the last 15 years. Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person smoked.
In addition to age and smoking history, patients should have a discussion with their doctor on an annual basis to determine if screening is right for them. Patients are also encouraged to check the criteria of their insurance policy as it may differ between insurers.
According to National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the five-year survival rates for lung cancer are 16.6 percent, due in part to the fact that most patients have advanced stage lung cancer at initial diagnosis.
“Covering the cost of these screenings can lead to earlier detection of lung cancer, before patients have symptoms and when treatment is more likely to be effective,” said Goetz Kloecker, MD, MBA, MSPH, FACP, director of the thoracic oncology clinic at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, part of KentuckyOne Health, associate professor of Hematology and Oncology and director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program at the University of Louisville. “The earlier we detect lung cancer, the more treatment options we have available for patients, which can help us improve survival rates over time.”
Late last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) announced a preliminary decision to cover low-dose CT lung cancer screening for patients between the ages of 55 and 74 who meet specific criteria for the screening. Exactly when coverage would start and the level of reimbursement to the provider will likely be announced in February 2015. Approximately four million Medicare recipients meet the eligibility criteria for low-dose CT screening.
The incidence of lung cancer increases with age and occurs most commonly in those 55 years of age or older. The most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, which results in approximately 85 percent of all U.S. lung cancer cases.
Low-dose CT screening for lung cancer has one of the lowest screening-to-death prevention ratios of all cancers. For example, breast cancer screenings take approximately 800 screenings to prevent one death from the disease. With low-dose CT, it only takes roughly 300 screenings to prevent a death from lung cancer.
For more information about low-dose CT screening, call 855.34KYONE or visit kentuckyonehealth.org/lungcare.
About KentuckyOne Health
KentuckyOne Health, the largest and most comprehensive health system in the Commonwealth, has more than 200 locations including, hospitals, physician groups, clinics, primary care centers, specialty institutes and home health agencies in Kentucky and southern Indiana. KentuckyOne Health is dedicated to bringing wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved. The system is made up of the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System, along with the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. KentuckyOne Health is proud of and strengthened by its Catholic, Jewish and academic heritages.