Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and 42 Senate colleagues have asked Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to expand coverage of an advanced lung cancer screening procedure under Medicare.
The senators sent a letter to CMS urging the expedition of its decision process on whether to allow Medicare beneficiaries access to low-dose CT scans. This innovative new medical technology is becoming available to those with private insurance plans but remains unavailable for seniors on Medicare, the group most often diagnosed with lung cancer.
“Lung cancer is often diagnosed in late stages, and only around 15 percent of patients survive more than five years after diagnosis of this disease,” the senators wrote. “Fortunately, low-dose CT scans have been found to be an effective tool in catching lung cancer early for high-risk patients. It is our hope that fully utilizing this screening tool will help reduce the more than 156,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.”
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Isakson, the letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), David Vitter (R-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Angus King (I-Maine), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
Full text of the letter is below:
May 28, 2014
The Honorable Marilyn Tavenner
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Administrator Tavenner,
As you know, when cancer is caught early patients have the best chance of survival. Lung cancer is often diagnosed in late stages, and only around 15 percent of patients survive more than five years after developing this disease. Fortunately, low-dose CT scans have been found to be an effective tool in catching lung cancer early. 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.
We are writing to urge that the Medicare National Coverage Determination (NCD) for low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans for Medicare beneficiaries with a high risk of developing lung cancer be completed expeditiously. 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 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has already evaluated low-dose CT scans for high-risk patients and provides a positive recommendation for this screening tool. This means that patients with private insurance are gaining access but Medicare beneficiaries are still waiting. We urge you to expedite the NDC review and provide us with updates as this process moves forward.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.