The Senate Minority Leader and senior U.S. Senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, has asked Medicare to reinforce early detection of lung cancer. The request was made in a letter addressed directly to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, as a result of a U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation.
Senator McConnell letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator specifically asked for the revision of the diagnosis methods for lung cancer, and in particular to consider the coverage of low-dose CT scans to diagnose the disease, among high-risk patients, such as pack-a-day smokers.
“I would encourage your agency to give a timely and fair review to determining whether low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scans should be covered by Medicare for patients at high-risk for developing lung cancer,” the senator wrote. “Ensuring Kentucky’s seniors have access to innovative diagnostic tools and treatment options should be a priority. Therefore, I ask that CMS review all of the available information and make an informed, timely decision regarding the Medicare coverage of low-dose CT scans for high-risk individuals.”
McConnell cited in his letter a recent recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces, which advised that patients older than 55 years who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or the equivalent should be submitted to yearly examinations. The problem is that the recommendation requested private insurers to start covering scans with no co-pays under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul, and Medicare has already questioned the decision, with a final verdict to be announced by the insurer in November.
The senator’s letter represents one more weight on the scale, as other entities have been engaged in showing the risks of not conducting early detection tests in high-risk patients. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute have reanalyzed a study, in which they concluded that lung cancer diagnosis tests are beneficial for heavy smoker older than 65 years, as well as that late detection is one of the reasons of the death of 160,000 people every year due to the disease, only in the USA.
The Republican senator, who is currently in a re-election race against Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state, also recalled that “lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers in the United States.” He also talked about the interests of his home state, Kentucky, which “has the highest state mortality rate of lung cancer in the country, and the disease claims the lives of approximately 3,000 Kentuckians every year,” he said.