During the January 11 edition of her Fox News program, Greta van Susteren allowed Scott Brown, Republican Senate candidate for Massachusetts, advance the false suggestion that the health care reform bills would prevent women from receiving mammograms and pap smears.
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From the January 11 edition of On the Record:
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what do you two agree on, because I know there's some area of agreement? What do you and Martha Coakley agree on, and what is the biggest difference between the two of you?
BROWN: The biggest difference is her position on taxing and spending, and the fact that she is pushing a health care bill that is bad for Massachusetts because we already have 98 percent of our people insured. We have already done what the government, the federal government is trying to do.
And why would we in fact have a one size fits all national plan that is going to put Massachusetts businesses out of business and give us longer lines, a half a trillion in Medicare cuts, Tri-Care for veterans is going to be affected. And then just the fact that a lot of the panels that are starting and the having mammograms go from, you know, 40 to 50 and pap smear testing.
There are a whole lot of things that are just bad. We really need to start again.
Fact: Health reform bills do not require insurers to adopt recommendations against preventative screenings
Task force recommendations not legally binding. In the aftermath of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation that some women receive fewer breast cancer screenings, media conservatives have fearmongered that the nonbinding recommendations represent government rationing -- with some tying the guidelines to the debunked "death panel" smear. However, the task force recommendations are not legally binding. Moreover, the task force encouraged clinicians and policymakers to include additional considerations and "individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation." 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."
Senate bill does not require insurers to adopt task force recommendations against preventive screenings, only those in favor of preventive screenings. The Senate health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires insurance companies only to cover screenings that the USPSTF recommends, those rated as an A or B recommendation; it does not require insurers to adopt guidelines that recommend against preventive screenings.
House bill requires insurers to adopt task force recommendations for 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 Clinical Preventive Services, but does not require that insurers adopt recommendations against preventive services.
Fact: ACOG cervical cancer screening guidelines not binding and in no way connected to health care reform
ACOG issued nonbinding guidelines, not mandates. On November 20, ACOG announced new recommendations for cervical cancer screenings, stating: "Women should have their first cervical cancer screening at age 21 and can be rescreened less frequently than previously recommended, according to newly revised evidence-based guidelines issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and published in the December issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Most women younger than 30 should undergo cervical screening once every two years instead of annually, and those age 30 and older can be rescreened once every three years."
ACOG: "[A] private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is not a government entity; it is a private membership organization. The organization's website states, "Founded in 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, ACOG has over 52,000 members and is the nation's leading group of professionals providing health care for women. Now based in Washington, DC, it is a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization."
NY Times: "It is by no means clear that doctors or patients will follow the new guidelines." Further undermining Siegel's attempt to connect the ACOG guidance with health care reform, a November 20 New York Times article reported: "It is by no means clear that doctors or patients will follow the new guidelines. Medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, have been suggesting for years that women with repeated normal Pap tests could begin to have the test less frequently, but many have gone on to have them year after year anyway."