Survey: USPSTF mammo recommendations lead states to deny coverage

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States are using the “deeply flawed and widely discredited” U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) mammography recommendations to deny women coverage for mammograms, and many women are forgoing mammography care based on those recommendations, according to a survey conducted by the Avon Foundation for Women. 

Respondents from more than a dozen states reported changes in their states’ breast and cervical cancer early detection programs following the USPSTF recommendations, including the elimination of early screening programs for women under age 50, Avon reported. California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Michigan are among the states that have changed their breast cancer screening programs since the USPSTF released its guidelines in November 2009.

Respondents to the survey also reported a decline in the number of women under 50 seeking mammograms and that many women already reluctant to have a mammogram are using the guidelines as their rationale to put off screening.

“Lawmakers at all levels need to act now to ensure that these recommendations do no further damage, and that women have full and ready access to mammography,” said James H. Thrall, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology board of chancellors.

The USPSTF is a panel funded and staffed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 gave the HHS the authority to consider USPSTF recommendations in Medicare coverage determinations. Private insurers and state governments may also incorporate the USPSTF recommendations.