Right-wing blogs falsely claim decline in free mammogram screenings followed task force recommendations
Research ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER
Right-wing blogs Gateway Pundit and Say Anything recently seized on an Associated Press article which reported that 20 states facing budget strains have cut back on free cancer screenings, such as mammograms, to claim that the declines followed recommendations made by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in November. In fact, as the AP article made clear, this statistic came from an American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network survey, which was conducted from July 2008 to April 2009, months before the USPSTF issued its recommendation.
Right-wing blogs claimed screening cuts came after task force recommendations
Gateway Pundit: "20 States Cut Mammograms After Government Report Released." In a December 14 post titled, "Change!...20 States Cut Mammograms After Government Report Released," Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft stated, "This won't end well," and falsely claimed that "[a] full 20 states have now cut funding for mammogram screenings for low income women after a government task force last month made its recommendations that women in their 40s should stop routinely having annual mammograms."
Say Anything also tied free screening cuts to task force. In a December 14 post, Say Anything blog asserted that "the Obama administration came right out and said that the panel should be ignored. But the panel hasn't been ignored. A full 20 states have now cut funding for mammogram screenings after this task force made its recommendations." The article also claimed "the point here is that when the government provides you with health care they tend to ration it. They make decisions for you, and those decisions aren't usually so much made with your best interests in mind but theirs."
Survey on screenings ended months before USPSTF issued mammogram recommendations
AP: The American Cancer Society survey was conducted from July 2008 to April 2009. The AP article, which both Hoft and Say Anything cited in their posts, reported that through the Amercan Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network's "unofficial survey of programs for July 2008 through April 2009, the organization found that state budget strains are forcing some programs to reject people who would otherwise qualify for free mammograms and Pap smears. Just how many are turned away isn't known; in some cases, the women are screened through other programs or referred to different providers."
USPSTF mammography recommendations were released in November of 2009. The USPSTF issued its recommendation for biennial mammogram screenings for woman aged 50-74 in November 2009. The task force had previously recommended that women have regular mammograms starting at age 40.
Decline in screenings reportedly attributed to budget shortfalls, not task force recommendations
AP: "The economy has forced cutbacks in screenings." According to the AP article, the American Cancer Society survey found that the cutbacks in free mammograms and Pap smears for low-income women were driven by state budget shortfalls: "In the unofficial survey of programs for July 2008 through April 2009, the organization found that state budget strains are forcing some programs to reject people who would otherwise qualify for free mammograms and Pap smears." The article quotes Claudia Hutton, a spokesperson for the New York Department of Health saying, "We don't do this lightly ... This is not a cut that we would have made if the state had the money, but the state just does not have the money."