Monday, June 1, 2015

Paying for Mammograms: We're Thinking About it All Wrong

The third rail of American health policy is women’s health care.  The U.S. Department of Labor states that women make 80 percent of health care decisions for their families, although this appears to be derived from folklore rather than scholarly research. Nevertheless, any politician knows that the way to drive up polling numbers among women is to dial up the rhetoric on health care.

Back in 1996, Hillary Clinton, bitter after the defeat of HillaryCare, campaigned against “drive-by deliveries,” demanding that a federal law should be passed mandating that health insurers pay for mothers to stay in hospital for at least 48 hours after delivery. The campaign succeeded quickly: The Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act passed that year, and took effect in 1998. It mandated a 48-hour stay (or 96 hours for Caesarian section). Although, doctors are free to discharge their patients earlier.

More recently, controversy arose when the Affordable Care Act was being debated, because it was being jammed through Congress just as women were struggling with a 2009 decision by the US Preventive Services Task Force to change its guidelines recommending annual mammograms. The new guidelines recommended screening starting at 50 years, not 40 (as previously recommended).

Needless to say, this upset many people. The American Cancer Society maintained its recommendation that preventive screening start at 40, as did the Mayo Clinic. Politicians took note, and made an exception in Obamacare for mammograms, such that the 2009 USPSTF revision was ignored when it came to Obamacare’s “free” preventive care.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

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