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WASHINGTON (AP) – Medicare will pay to remove potentially cancer-causing skin lesions, lifting many previous restrictions on the procedure.

Seniors afflicted with common sun-induced lesions will have greater access to surgical removal, or other treatments, the agency that runs Medicare said Friday. Officials said the new policy should be in place by next spring or sooner.

The condition, known as actinic keratoses, affects many of the federal health program’s participants, said Thomas Scully, chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. As many as 60 percent of the population could suffer from the condition in their lifetime.

The agency’s decision creates a national standard for Medicare coverage. Previously, some claims had been denied for treating certain parts of the body. In some cases, Medicare would only cover patients with a history of skin cancer.

The discrepancy in policy dates back to federal officials wanting to grant more control to the local insurers who process claims on behalf of the federal agency.

The skin-lesions are most common in fair-skinned people who have spent much time in the sun. Studies show that the risk of developing the lesions increases with age.

The lesions typically appear as rough, scaly patches on exposed skin, ranging from flesh-colored to reddish-brown.

Officials decided to grant uniform coverage after reviewing clinical studies.

“It makes sense for Medicare to provide uniform coverage nationally for proven treatments that prevent deadly disease,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

The decision can be found at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

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