Lung cancer screening could cost Medicare billions
Every person covered by Medicare would shell out an additional $3 a month if the government agreed to pay to screen certain current and former smokers for lung cancer, a new study estimates.
It would cost Medicare $2 billion a year to follow recent advice to offer these lung scans - and fuel angst about rising health costs that are borne by everyone, not just smokers, the study found.
Joshua Roth of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle said the researchers merely were tallying the cost of screening, and were not "judging value" or saying whether Medicare should pay it. He led the study, which was released Wednesday and will be presented at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference later this month.
Lung cancer is the world's top cancer killer, mainly because it's usually found too late for treatment to do much good. Most deaths involve Medicare-age people, and most are due to smoking.
However, Medicare makes its own coverage decisions and is to announce one by November. The new study sought to peg the fiscal impact and inform the debate.
The cancer drug company Genentech paid for the study.
Independent experts praised the researchers but said more needs to be known about screening's benefits.
A previous study of people in an insurance plan - not Medicare - estimated breast cancer screening with mammograms added $2.50 to the cost of monthly premiums and colorectal screening, 95 cents per month.
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