Dan Pfeiffer writes, “One of the hallmark tactics from opponents of health insurance reform has been to grab onto any convenient piece of information and twist it into some misguided attack on reform, no matter how unrelated it may actually be….. and Fox News obliges them with the headline ‘Critics See Health Care Rationing Behind New Mammography Recommendations.'” He says the media outlets feed on this kind of opportunistic “controversy.” Ya think?

Gee, how did the mainstream media miss this statement coming from the White House?

Pfeiffer continues that it’s ironic that the the right would spin this government agency recommendation as “health care rationing” that is part of the insurance reform movement. In fact health care reform proponents want to see increased preventative measures, as do most doctors.

One very basic problem with U.S. healthcare is that we have a policy of only providing free health care to people when they are in an emergency or at risk of death. By that time it’s often too late, especially in cancer cases. Staunch reform proponents want socialized medicine for all people to have health care as they need it, when they need it, for all ages – Medicare for all.

So the right is spinning this (what I would call suspicious) recommendation from the independent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Note the word “independent.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius had stated that she expects no changes to take place in the government or in the health insurance industry as a result of this (independent) USPSTF report. In fact she stated Wednesday that women should continue to get checked at age 40. Yet the right wing liars, as per usual, keep saying this stuff will be part of health care reform.

On the other hand we should indeed keep watch that the health insurance industry doesn’t try to sneak in this kind of cut back on preventative services which would benefit them and which they could blame upon reformers with this kind of media spin. How hard can it be to influence an independent task force when you’re an insurance industry that already has Congress on it’s payroll and has written the recently passed health care bill with lobbyists? This is all out media warfare. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Pfeiffer’s blog continues with the following clarification FAQ:

Will Medicare now stop paying for breast cancer mammography for women because of this recommendation?

Women who are currently getting mammograms under Medicare will continue to be able to get them. There are no plans to change that. The law states that in order to change Medicare coverage of mammograms a formal rule making process must be undertaken and that is not happening.

Isn’t this the first step toward denying coverage for mammograms?

No. The Task force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care that evaluates available evidence and makes recommendations about effective clinical preventive services based on scientific information. Under the health insurance reform legislation, the USPTF would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way. Their recommendations would be used in health reform to identify effective clinical preventive services.

How will this recommendation affect private health insurance coverage?

The Task Force does not address insurance coverage and payment issues; it focuses on the science of the clinical services it evaluates. Each insurance company is different and makes its own coverage decisions. The Task Force recognizes that clinical and policy decisions involve more consideration that this body of evidence alone. Clinicians and policymakers should understand the evidence but individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation.

Tommy Thompson said the Task Force recommendations were the official position of the U.S. Government. Is that your position?

We have tremendous respect for the Task Force and the work they have done. They are an independent scientific body that makes recommendations based on scientific evidence; however they do not set official policy for the federal government. Under health reform, their recommendations would be used to identify preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost.

Won’t the USPSTF be used to ration care under health reform?

Absolutely not. The USPSTF, an independent task force made up of some of the nation’s top doctors and scientists provides science-based recommendations regarding the most effective preventive, treatment and screening services. The Task Force’s recommendations would be used to help determine the types of services that must be provided for at little or no cost and the Task Force would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way..

What do these recommendations mean for the current health reform bills?

While the bills are still being drafted and debated in Congress, health insurance reform legislation generally calls for the Task Force’s recommendations to help determine the types of preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost. The recommendations alone cannot be used to deny treatment.