Beck and Horowitz falsely claim Dems are implementing mammogram recommendations as part of "a rationing system"

››› ››› BROOKE OBIE

On Fox News' Glenn Beck, both Glenn Beck and conservative author David Horowitz falsely claimed that Democrats are responsible for recent United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations that fewer women under 50 receive regular mammograms, citing them as proof that Democrats are, in Horowitz's words, "imposing a rationing system." In fact, these guidelines were promulgated by an independent panel of medical professionals -- all of whom were reportedly seated or selected during the Bush administration -- whose recommendations are not legally binding and about which President Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary said: "They do not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the federal government."

Beck and Horowitz falsely attribute mammography guidelines to Democrats, cite them as evidence of "rationing" agenda

From the November 23 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

HOROWITZ: The Democrats pretend to care about women, children, minorities and the poor, but, in fact, they don't.

BECK: A great example of that, wouldn't be, inverting the myth, wouldn't that be the mammogram thing? I mean, the insurance companies are saying, "we're still going to cover that," but the Democrats, now the government, is now saying, "no, we don't need to cover the mammogram thing."

HOROWITZ: Right. Women are a vulnerable group. The Democrats are operating by the numbers. Everything you are saying is correct. I mean, they are imposing a rationing system. Their drive is to get a single-payer system, which means the government will make the decisions for you, and they already let out of the bag the fact that some women are not going to get mammograms and that means they're going to die needlessly, and the government is going to make that decision.

BECK: So what do you do to get that out? Because honestly,

HOROWITZ: It's very simple. Let's have a die-in. Let's do what the left did with the AIDS epidemic in the '80s. Let's get the tea party women out there at all the mammogram centers, let them have die-ins so that the whole population understands. It is very difficult to get information out in our culture. We live in -- it is just vast. People have no idea--

BECK: Wait-I don't even remember, the die-in is everybody just would go into offices and they would just lay down on the floor and then they'd have to drag you out.

HOROWITZ: Right and then they'd accuse Reagan of killing them, of course, but in this case it's the Democratic Party that's killing them.

In fact, guidelines were promulgated by an independent task force reportedly chosen by or seated under Bush

Report explicitly states recommendations "are independent of the U.S. government." A "Disclaimer" included with the USPSTF mammography recommendations stated: "Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. government. They should not be construed as an official position of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."

Wash. Post: Chairman states all task force members were seated under or chosen by Bush. From a November 18 Washington Post article:

Ned Calonge, who chairs the 16-member panel, defended the recommendations and denied that cost or the debate over health-care reform played any role in the decision. "Cost just isn't a consideration when the task force deliberates," said Calonge, who is also the chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Twelve of the task force members were seated during the Bush administration, and the remaining four were chosen before President George W. Bush left office, he said. [emphasis added]

Obama's HHS Secretary made clear task force recommendations "do not set federal policy"

Sebelius: Recommendations are from "an outside independent panel," "do not set federal policy." From HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's November 18 press release:

"There is no question that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations have caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women and their families across this country. I want to address that confusion head on. The U.S. Preventive Task Force is an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations. They do not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the federal government

"There has been debate in this country for years about the age at which routine screening mammograms should begin, and how often they should be given. The Task Force has presented some new evidence for consideration but our policies remain unchanged. Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.

"What is clear is that there is a great need for more evidence, more research and more scientific innovation to help women prevent, detect, and fight breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today. Keep doing what you have been doing for years -- talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you." [emphasis added]

Rationing claim undermined: recommendations are not legally binding

Task force recommendations not legally binding. Contrary to Beck and Horowitz's claims that, in Horowitz's words, Democrats "are imposing a rationing system" in part through these guidelines, the task force's recommendations are not legally binding. Moreover, the task force encouraged policymakers to include additional considerations and "individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation."

NBC's Snyderman: "It's important to remember that these new recommendations from this independent task force are just that -- they're recommendations." In a Nightly News report on the task force recommendations, NBC chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman stated, "It's important to remember that these new recommendations from this independent task force are just that -- they're recommendations. They don't mandate any changes in who should get mammograms and when." [NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, 11/17/09]

Task force previously recommended against certain preventive cancer screenings under Bush, undermining efforts to connect guidelines, "rationing" charge to Democrats. For example, in 2004 the task force recommended against screening for ovarian cancer, routine screening for testicular cancer in "asymptomatic adolescent and adult males," and routine bladder cancer screening in adults; in 2005, it recommended against routine screening for peripheral arterial disease; in 2006, it recommended against routine genetic screening of the asymptomatic general population for hereditary hemochromatosis; and in 2007, it recommended against screening the general adult population for asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis.

Democrats' health bills do not require insurers to adopt such recommendations against preventive services

Senate bill does not require insurers to adopt USPSTF recommendations against preventive screenings, only those in favor of specific preventive screenings. The Senate health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires insurance companies to cover screenings that the USPSTF rates as A or B recommendations. It does not require insurers to adopt guidelines that recommend against preventive screenings:

''SEC. 2713. COVERAGE OF PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES.

''(a) IN GENERAL. -- A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for --

''(1) evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of 'A' or 'B' in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force;

House bill requires insurers to adopt task force recommendations in favor of specific coverage, but not those against coverage. Similarly, the House health care reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, requires insurance companies to cover the A or B recommendations of a new task force, the "Task Force on Community Preventive Services," but does not require that lower-rated recommendations against preventive services be denied:

''SEC. 3143. RESEARCH ON SUBSIDIES AND REWARDS TO ENCOURAGE WELLNESS AND HEALTHY BEHAVIORS.

[...]

''(c) INCLUSION IN ESSENTIAL BENEFITS PACKAGE. -- If, on the basis of the findings of research and demonstration projects under subsection (a) or other sources consistent with section 3131, the Task Force on Clinical Preventive Services determines that a subsidy or reward meets the Task Force's standards for a grade A or B, the Secretary shall ensure that the subsidy or reward is included in the essential benefits package under section 222.

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