June 13, 2016 — The American College of Radiology (ACR) announced its support of provisions in a new bill that would further delay implementation of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening mammography recommendations. The bill, known as the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (S.3040), would extend the current two-year delay until 2019.
The current moratorium, passed under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, expires in 2017. Private insurers would then no longer be required to cover annual mammography screening without copayments for women starting at age 40. Millions of women nationwide may lose covered access to regular mammograms if current USPSTF breast cancer screening guidelines are implemented.
“All major stakeholders in this issue agree that regular mammography screening saves lives. We would hope that even the most vocal critic of this screening would agree that women should be able to choose for themselves when to be tested and to have that decision respected in terms of covered access. We strongly urge the Senate and House to pass these continued protections for women and their families into law,” said Geraldine McGinty, M.D., MBA, vice chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors and health policy expert.
The USPSTF recently finalized recommendations assigning a “C” grade to routine mammography screening of women ages 40-49. The Task Force gave a “B” grade only to biennial mammography screening in women ages 50-74. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) only requires private insurers to cover exams or procedures given a grade of “B” or higher by the USPSTF.
According to the National Cancer Institute, since mammography screening became widespread in the mid-1980s, the U.S. breast cancer death rate, unchanged for the previous 50 years, has dropped 36 percent. Peer-reviewed analysis has shown that if USPSTF breast cancer screening guidelines were followed, approximately 6,500 additional women each year in the U.S. would die from breast cancer. Thousands more would likely endure more extensive and expensive treatments than if their cancers were found early by a mammogram.
“The protections in this bill would allow more adequate time for breast cancer experts to properly vet the USPSTF recommendations, the process by which they were created and more recent literature on mammography screening. This will help ensure a sensible screening policy that saves the most lives and minimizes any viable screening concerns. We strongly urge lawmakers to pass these continued protections,” said Debra Monticciolo, M.D., FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission, and internationally recognized breast cancer expert.
The largest and longest running breast cancer screening studies in history reconfirm that regular screening cuts breast cancer deaths by roughly a third in all women ages 40-and-over — including those 40-49.