Urging Congress To Place Moratorium On Screening Recommendations

LBBC News
August 5, 2015

Impact on young women, minority women and high-risk women of “great concern”

We’re announcing that we have joined a growing and diverse group of patient advocacy organizations urging that a moratorium be placed on draft breast cancer screening recommendations made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). These recommendations, introduced in April, could effectively result in denial of screenings to women between the ages of 40-49. The moratorium will allow the General Accounting Office (GAO) to determine how the guidelines impact young women and other high risk groups that have the highest mortality rates from breast cancer.

The USPSTF’s draft recommendations give annual mammograms for women 40-49 a “C” grade. This grade would allow commercial health plans to deny full coverage of annual mammograms to women in this group. Federal law currently requires most commercial health plans cover preventive services with an “A” or “B” rating from the USPSTF.

Our Vice President of Programs and Partnerships, Catherine L. Ormerod, MSS, MLSP, says that we have “great concern that these new guidelines, while stating that women in their 40s with higher risk may benefit from screening, still assign service to these women a ‘C’ recommendation. We know that genetics can play a part in the development of breast cancer for some women. This will make insurance reimbursement for screening mammography before age 50 difficult for millions of women with increased risk due to family history.”

In addition, certain ethnic groups—African-Americans and Native Americans, for example—have lower incidence but higher mortality from breast cancer. “It is possible that individuals within different ethnic groups are carrying a higher burden of mortality and could face years lost if they are not able to access testing that could detect breast cancer earlier,” she continues.

Representatives Renee Ellmers (NC-02), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), and Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) last week introduced the “Protect Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act” (PALS Act). The bill, H.R. 3339, would prevent the recommendations from being finalized. Current guidelines, which have been in effect since 2002, would continue to be followed until concerns from the medical community and patients have been considered by the GAO.

Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the 2 year moratorium legislation, S. 1926, Tuesday, August 4. Also called the PALS Act (Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screening Act). S.126, the House bill, would prevent the USPSTF draft breast screening guidelines from being implemented for 2 years. While largely identical to the House bill, the Senate bill also calls for the GAO to conduct a study and report to Congress within 2 years on ways to improve the methodologies and processes of the US Preventive Services Task Force.

“LBBC is urging Congress to place a two-year moratorium on the guideline finalization in order for the concerns of the medical community and young and minority women impacted by these guidelines to be addressed. We are also asking our constituents to join this call by signing a petition asking Congress to prevent the guidelines from being finalized,” Ormerod concludes.

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