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Study Tells Insurers: Cover CT Lung Screening

April 11, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology
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Lung cancer screening should be routinely covered by health insurance, says an actuarial study in the April issue of Health Affairs.

Had such screening been in place for the past 15 years, the study says, 130,000 more people under age 65 would be alive, plus additional people 65 or older. The cost to insurers would be less than $1 per insured member per month, it says.

Bruce Pyenson, the lead author, said:

These results demonstrate the cost efficiency of offering this benefit to people who are at high risk of lung cancer. … We can also jump the needle on cancer mortality for the first time in years, and do so in a cost-effective manner.

Pyenson is an actuary and principal at the New York office of Milliman, an international actuarial and consulting firm. He was quoted in a Health Affairs blog about the study.

Indianapolis-based WellPoint does cover the screening, as we reported in December. Other insurers have been slow to follow, despite strong evidence that low-dose helical CT screening could significantly reduce lung-cancer deaths.

Pyenson and other Milliman actuaries modeled the costs to insurance companies of screening the high-risk population: smokers and former long-term smokers ages 55 through 64. The actuaries assumed that the high-risk population totaled about 18 million and that about half of those would get screening if insurers covered it.

The cost per life-year saved was projected to be less than that of cervical and breast cancer screening and comparable to that of colorectal cancer screening.

Pyenson summarized the conclusions:

This screening process offers a good value for the money, and it saves lives. Late stage lung cancer is deadly, but if treated at an early stage, survival is very good—that’s what makes early detection so promising.

The authors did emphasize that screening should be done efficiently, using high-quality providers, best practices for managing clinical aspects of screening, and rigorous tracking of outcomes.

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One Response to “Study Tells Insurers: Cover CT Lung Screening”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » CT Lung Screening Still Needs Some Tweaks on September 20th, 2013 at 10:00 am

    […] then, the news has been mixed. WellPoint now covers CT lung screening, but most other insurers don’t. Last summer, a task force recommended broad screening […]