Insurers Should Screen Older Smokers for Lung Cancer

Cost per life-year saved comparable to cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening costs

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Lung cancer screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography could be of substantial value in high-risk smoker populations over the age of 50, and commercial insurers should consider providing coverage for the screening, according to a study published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

Bruce S. Pyenson, from the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman in New York City, and colleagues used actuarial models to evaluate the costs and benefits of offering annual lung cancer screening as a commercial insurance benefit in the high-risk U.S. population (ages 50 to 64 years). Current commercial reimbursement rates for treatment were used.

The researchers found that the cost of screening would be about $1 per month in 2012 dollars for each insured member. The cost per life-year saved would be less than $19,000, which is comparable with screening costs for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancers.

"Our results suggest that commercial insurers should consider lung cancer screening of high-risk individuals to be high-value coverage and provide it as a benefit to people who are at least 50 years old and have a smoking history of thirty pack-years or more," the authors write.

One of the authors holds patents related to lung cancer care; these patents do not involve the use of low-dose spiral computed tomography.

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