Annual lung cancer screenings for long-term smokers may soon be covered by Medicare, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Monday.

The reimbursement proposal would cover annual CT scans for people aged 55 to 74 with a smoking history of 30 pack-years who still smoke or who quit within the last 15 years.

Pack years are determined by multiplying the number of packs smoked daily by the number of years a person has smoked.

Private insurers will also be required to cover lung cancer screenings for this group of people starting in 2015, the result of a recommendation issued almost a year ago by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The task force is an independent panel of experts that advises the federal government on health policies.

Advocacy groups and experts hailed the Medicare decision.

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