Kathy Castor Champions the Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act

At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., showcased her support of the “Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act,” a proposal from U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY, to “increase lung cancer screening rates across the United States and reduce barriers to care and preventative services in underserved communities.”

Higgins introduced the bill three weeks ago with Castor as the only co-sponsor.

“In the United States, lung cancer accounts for 25 percent of all cancer-related deaths, claiming more lives than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined. It is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths partially due to the fact that 46 percent of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited, and five-year survival rates are low,” noted Castor’s office. “This legislation will amend the Social Security Act to require all state Medicaid programs to cover lung cancer screening for eligible enrollees. It also expands coverage under Medicaid for counseling and medication assisted treatment for tobacco cessation for all enrollees without the need for prior authorization. Additionally, the bill will prohibit both public and private insurers from subjecting annual lung cancer screenings to prior authorization.”

Higgins and Castor weighed in on the proposal on Friday.

“Like many cancers, early detection is our best protection against lung cancer. Unfortunately, there are still many barriers to screenings and rates across the country remain low, especially in underserved communities,” said Higgins. “This legislation will increase lung cancer screening rates and improve access to preventative care. It will help millions of families and bring us another step closer to ending cancer as we know it.”

“Lung cancer kills too many Americans each year due in part to late-stage diagnoses. In Florida, only 3 percent of those eligible for lung cancer screenings were screened in 2021. It’s time to boost that statistic. Our new bill will help increase access to screenings and preventive services to save lives across America,” said Castor. “Fortunately, Moffitt Cancer Center, one of the nation’s premier cancer research institutes, is at the forefront of cancer prevention and working to remove barriers to ensure that all Americans have access to lifesaving screenings and health care. Together, we are committed to saving tens of thousands of lives lost to lung cancer each year through outreach and early detection like lung screenings.”

The Moffitt Cancer Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Lung Association are backing the proposal.

“We estimate as many as 60,000 lives could be saved each year if the 14.5 million Americans who are eligible received annual lung cancer screening. This legislation will improve access to early detection, which is key to reducing lung cancer deaths. Outcomes for patients are much better when we can catch lung cancer at early stages when curative treatment options are available,” said Dr. Jhanelle Gray, the department chair and program leader of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees. So far, there is no companion measure in the U.S. Senate.

Kevin Derby
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