Bipartisan bill intro’d to stall USPSTF breast-screening draft

Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina has joined with Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida to try to hold the tide against the breast-cancer screening recommendations drafted by the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) this past spring.

The two introduced legislation Thursday that would place a two-year moratorium blocking adoption of the draft, which the USPSTF could finalize at any time.

The two-year stay “would allow time for Congress and others to review concerns about the impact these recommendations would have on women being screened for this deadly disease, as well as concerns about the USPSTF process,” reads a joint statement posted to Ellmers’s website.

The draft recommendations of the USPSTF, an independent advisory arm of HHS, gave a grade "C" recommendation for routine screenings of women in their 40s, though the group's commentary did not necessarily come down for or against mammography in this patient population.

Instead, USPSTF stated that the decision to start screening before turning 50 is best treated as a personal choice to be made by women “who place a higher value on the potential benefit than the potential harms.”

But the "C" grade—as opposed the "B" grade given to routine screening of women ages 50-74—clearly leaves open a loophole for payers. Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers must cover, without copay, procedures given a grade "B" or higher by the USPSTF.

Numerous associations and groups—including the GOP Doctors Caucus two weeks ago—have issued dire warnings about negative ramifications for 40-something women counting on coverage.

“It is wrong of the USPSTF to write off any young woman in her forties who wants to have a mammogram, and this legislation’s two-year moratorium will ensure we hear from the group most affected by these draft recommendations—young women under the age of 50,” writes Wasserman Schultz, a survivor of breast cancer diagnosed when she was 41.

Ellmers, a nurse, says mammography screenings are “one of the most important ways we can encourage prevention and help save lives. This is just one reason why today’s legislation is so important.”

Click here for the full statement from the two Congresswomen and here for the specific wording of their bill, HR 3339, which they have dubbed “PALS” for Protect Access to Lifesaving Screenings.