No, These Aren't Health Care Reform Fairy Tales

I listened carefully in my committee last month as the idea that U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decisions resulting in the rationing of health care was said to be a fairy tale.

And yet in the bill that had already passed the House, on page 1762, the same U.S. Preventive Services Task Force was given the authority to determine the “frequency,” “the population to be served,” and “the procedure or technology to be used” for breast cancer screenings covered under the Indian Health Service. Further, Section 303 of the legislation states: “The Commissioner shall specify the benefits to be made available under Exchange participating health plans."

In plain English, those two sentences mean the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the new "health choices commissioner" will determine what preventive services, including mammograms, are covered under the health insurance plan envisioned in the House health care reform bill.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an outside, independent council of doctors and scientists who make recommendations. They are not supposed to make federal policy or determine what services should be covered by the bill, but the bill makes it plain that their recommendations are going to have the force of law.

I’m familiar with this particular issue from personal, family experience. I have an aunt who passed away in her early 50s as a consequence of breast cancer, and a sister who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s. She’s had proper treatment -- a mastectomy -- and so far, in the last 10 years, is cancer-free. I have a wife under the age of 50 and she has annual mammograms. And I have a good friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer who is in her mid-40s. Again, she’s undergoing treatment and hopefully she’s going to have a good outcome.

It is wrong, in my opinion, to have an unelected task force make the recommendations that have already been made, and it is wrong to have in the House health reform bill the authority that’s given to unelected bureaucrats to make health care decisions, including coverage frequency for mammograms.