The final health-care bill is likely to require coverage for more mammograms than the new guidelines recommend after women’s groups, doctors and imaging-equipment makers stepped up pressure on lawmakers — one of many threads of the bill negotiated behind the scenes.
Many doctors and patient groups have long supported early, frequent screening for breast cancer. In recent years, they joined forces with mammography companies — striking sponsorship deals, for example, and holding joint events to promote breast-cancer awareness, as well as to tout company products.
They swung into action in November after the federally funded U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said routine mammograms weren’t necessary for women in their 40s who have normal cancer risk.
The panel said the downsides of mammograms, including the risk of false positive results, could outweigh the benefits for many women in their 40s. Other potential harms cited were unnecessary treatment and exposure to low-level radiation.
Please don’t interpret this post as anti-women’s health. It is not. It is pro-science. But more than that, it is an example of what happens to science when it meets politics. It isn’t pretty. If we took every dollar saved on scientifically demonstrated unnecessary mammograms and pumped it back into health care for women with a higher health payoff, that would be fine with me.