Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Preview of Things to Come

Forty thousand women die of breast cancer in the United States every year. This number has steadily declined since 1990 and that decline can be summed up in two words-early detection. Consider this from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

What a difference six months — and a health-care overhaul proposal — can make! Just six months ago, the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, which works within the Department of Health and Human Services as a “best practice” panel on prevention, sounded a warning signal over a slight decline in annual mammograms among women in their 40s. In fact, they warned women of this age bracket that they could be risking their lives if they didn’t get the annual preventive exam (via HA reader Devil’s Advocate):

The downward trend, however slight, has breast cancer experts worried. Mammograms can enable physicians to diagnose the disease at early stages, often before a lump can be felt. “When breast cancer is detected early, it often can be treated before it has a chance to spread in the body and increase the risk of dying from the disease,” says Katherine Alley, medical director of the breast health program at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

The U.S Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts working under the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that women older than 40 get a mammogram every one to two years. The task force finds the test most helpful for women between ages 50 and 69, for whom it says the evidence is strongest that screening lowers death rates from breast cancer. Other groups, including the American Medical Association, suggest a more rigorous schedule, saying the test should be done every year; insurers often pay for annual tests.

But today, that same panel says … never mind:

“We’re not saying women shouldn’t get screened. Screening does saves lives,” said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine. “But we are recommending against routine screening. There are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully.”

What changed? ObamaCare. Government run health care programs universally cut funding for preventative tests in order to hold costs down. What is the government panel’s reasoning? Consider this:

While annual mammography for all women beginning at age 40 reduced the death rate from breast cancer by at least 15 percent, the modeling studies indicated that the added benefit of starting before age 50 was modest, the researchers concluded. (emphasis mine)
The panel admits that screenings save lives but not enough to justify the cost. Welcome to nationalize health care ladies, your life has just been reduced to dollars and cents. But wait, it gets even better-the panel is also recommending against women performing self examines!

Think you’ll just ignore the new recommendations? You are free to do that and your doctor is free to order a mammogram, but any tests outside of the panels recommendations will be paid by the patient and not covered under the government program. Your covered by a private program? Guess how private companies decide what procedures to cover-yep, the decision is based on the panel’s recommendation.

I’ll leave you with these words from Wizbang:

ObamaCare hasn't even passed the Senate yet, and already this task force seems to be implementing cost cutting measures in anticipation of the government's increased financial stake in the health care of millions of Americans. And if this doesn't concern you, keep in mind that Pelosi's health care bill that just passed the House is chock full of new government health care task forces that will issue all manner of new recommendations, the vast majority of which will probably be that citizens should postpone screenings for various cancers, illnesses, and disorders.

And President Obama said no one should come between you and your doctor. What he meant is that no one should come between you and your doctor - except a government health care task force.

h/t Memeorandum