Utilization of Lung Cancer Screening in the Medicare Fee-for-Service Population

Tina D. Tailor, Betty C. Tong, Junheng Gao, Louise M. Henderson, Kingshuk Roy Choudhury, Geoffrey D. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: A number of organizations, including the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), recommend lung cancer screening (LCS) with low-dose CT (LDCT) imaging for high-risk current and former smokers. In 2015, Medicare issued a decision to cover LCS as a preventive health benefit; however, utilization by the Medicare population has not been thoroughly examined. Research Question: Our objective was to evaluate the early use of LCS in the Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) population and determine the relationship(s) among beneficiary sociodemographic characteristics, geographic location, and use. Study Design and Methods: This cross-sectional observational study used 100% Medicare FFS claims files for Medicare beneficiaries receiving LCS between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. We estimated the LCS-eligible Medicare population using population and smoking data from the US Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We assessed variation in LCS rates by beneficiary characteristics and geography, using univariate and multivariate regression, the latter also including how interactions between geographic location and race/ethnicity influence screening. Results: A total of 103,892 Medicare FFS beneficiaries received LCS in 2016, comprising 4.1% (95% CI, 3.9%-4.3%) of the estimated LCS-eligible Medicare population. Accounting for the interactions between race/ethnicity and US region, nonwhite (black, Hispanic) beneficiaries in all US regions were screened with lower frequency than white beneficiaries (P <. 001). Screening rates in the Northeast were significantly higher than in other regions (adjusted rate ratio [95% CI] of Northeast relative to South: 1.83 [1.36-2.46]). Interpretation: The early adoption of LCS among Medicare beneficiaries was low. Our results suggest geographic and racial disparities in screening use, with populations in the South and those of nonwhite race/ethnicity being screened with lower frequency. Further work is needed to improve LCS uptake and ensure consistent use by all at-risk populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2200-2210
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • health-care disparities
  • imaging
  • lung cancer screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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