Americans with a long history of smoking can now expect to get some federal government’s protection in the form of Medicare and Medicaid annual screening coverage, and this is actually to save potentially save some 20,000 lives that could have been consumed by lung cancer – which is a direct result of prolonged smoking.

Older Americans will now be offered annual screenings for lung cancer, and this will essentially cover the 4 million people who are at risk of lung cancer as a result of smoking. Chronic smokers that have smoked one pack of cigarette per day for 30 years will also be given CT scans under the Medicare program, but this only applies to cardholders. However, beneficiaries of the Medicare aid will continue to enjoy the free CT scan plan until they clock 74 years of age.

Although the government had earlier proposed that free screenings be given to smokers aged 55-80, private insurers have been encouraged to cover such screenings under the Affordable Care Act.

The proposed additional screening coverage will actually take effect as from February 30, 2015, a window of 30 days has been left open for the public to make comments or file applications to reverse any section of the proposal. But the president of the Lung Cancer Alliance, Laurie Fenton Ambrose, disagrees that any debate is needed in the face of the benefits of the program. “This is important validation, and it ends the debate. Screening saves lives. The public needs to know that.”

While health authorities have blamed late diagnosis for the death of 90% of all lung cancer patients, some 160,000 deaths are said to result from the disease every year. And to this end, Dr. Richard C. Wender, the chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society advises that annual screenings be provided at accredited centers following a set of approved protocols and data registry for easy tracking of patients or beneficiaries.

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