Senator David Vitter (R-La.)
May 12, 2010 - Senate minority deputy whip, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), recently sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding HHS remove all materials and references to the November 2009 U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) mammography recommendations.
In compliance with recently passed health care reform legislation, section 2713 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires the federal government set aside the November 2009 USPSTF recommendations related to breast cancer and mammography.
“The fact that these recommendations are still being presented to the general public as ‘current’ is only serving to further confuse women on this critical issue. The recommendations were ill-conceived from the start – developed via a process without transparency, without input from those with experience and expertise in the field, and without due regard for the thousands of lives that could be impacted by the recommendation. They represent a step backward in our fight against a horrible disease and the taxpayers’ dollar must not be spent in further promotion of them,” wrote Sen. Vitter.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) applauds Sen. David Vitter's stance. The USPSTF is a panel funded and staffed by the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) gave the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the authority to consider USPSTF recommendations in Medicare coverage determinations.
According to the ACR, the USPSTF based recommendations to greatly reduce breast cancer screening on conflicting computer models. The USPSTF supported the idea that the parameters of mammography screening change abruptly at age 50.
The federally funded and staffed USPSTF consisted of representatives from major health insurers, but not a single radiologist, oncologist, breast surgeon, or any other clinician with demonstrated expertise in breast cancer diagnosis or treatment.
In response to the USPSTF recommendations, states are making changes to their coverage for mammography based on the USPSTF recommendations and even denying women coverage for mammograms, reports a recent Avon Foundation for Women survey. California, particularly, has already cut coverage of mammography for low income women.
“The ACR strongly supports Sen. Vitter’s request. These USPSTF recommendations run counter to the expert guidance of the American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging," said James H. Thrall, M.D., FACR, chair of the ACR Board of chancellors.
Thrall added, "I think these particular USPSTF recommendations have been shown to be an example of how health care policy should not be done moving forward.”