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WellPoint Is First To Cover CT Lung Screening

December 5, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology
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WellPoint has become the first insurer to cover what may become a new standard screening regimen: low-dose CT scans for lung cancer in people who have been heavy smokers.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Indianapolis-based company, which insures about 34 million people, will cover the scans for those who match the characteristics of participants in the National Lung Screening Trial.

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times, the trial found such positive results from screening with low-dose helical CT lung scans—a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer compared to screening with standard chest X-rays—that the National Cancer Institute stopped the trial early.

So WellPoint will cover those who have smoked at least the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, are 55 to 74 years old, and, if they’ve quit smoking, did so within the past 15 years.

John Whitney, MD, a WellPoint medical director, told the Journal:

This was the first time a really well-done study showed you could save lives by screening with this technique.

However, because of such “potential downsides” as the risk of false positives and the extra radiation dosages from the CT scans, Dr. Whitney said, “We think the evidence only supports screening for the population they studied and showed a benefit in.”

For now, WellPoint will cover annual scans for three years, again closely following the study.

Also for now, no other insurers seem to be following WellPoint’s lead. Cigna, Aetna, and UnitedHealth Group all did tell the Journal they were keeping an eye on the issue.

A lot of medical institutions, ranging from big hospitals to storefront clinics, have been promoting CT lung scans because, of course, they see potential profits. And WellPoint, of course, sees potential savings for itself if the scans can find cancer early enough that it can be treated relatively inexpensively.

Maybe everybody’s right and patients will benefit too. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

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We can’t promise that today’s Facebook post will be lovely, but we’ll do our best to make it interesting.

Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging

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One Response to “WellPoint Is First To Cover CT Lung Screening”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Study Tells Insurers: Cover CT Lung Screening on April 11th, 2012 at 10:02 am

    […] 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 […]