This afternoon, the House Subcommittee on Health held a hearing about the Preventive Task Force’s ‘C’ – grade guidelines advising primary care physicians against recommending mammograms to women under 40 years of age. While the guidelines were the result of comprehensive scientific review of the benefits of mammogram testing for women under 40 and have no bearing on coverage decisions, Republicans have presented the Task Force as a poster child of health care rationing — a one-size-fits all approach to medicine that places the cost of care ahead of patients’ well being.
Today’s testimony by Task Force Chairman Dr. Ned Calonge highlighted the desperation of the Republican attack. President Bush may have left the White House but Congressional Republicans continue to scare women and wage war against science. Some highlights from today’s hearings:
- “Our job is to review scientific evidence, politics play no role in our deliberative processes. Costs were never considered in our considerations. We voted on these recommendations long before the last Presidential election.”
- “For ‘C’ recommendations we recommend that the patient be informed of the potential benefits and harms and then be supported in making his or her informed choice about being tested. The specific C language that we recommend against routine provision was intended for consideration by primary care clinicians.”
- “We expect clinicians to do what they’re trained to do in order to address the needs of the individual patient and his or her best interest.”
As Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) observed, “From the things I’ve heard said about you on the other side of the aisle about you folks at the agency, I was afraid you’d appear with horns, tail, fangs, and in red suit breathing fire. Demanding that we immediately terminate all health benefits for the the unfortunate, weak, sick, and especially with regard to mammogram and pap smears.”
Later in the hearing, Diana B. Petitti, M.D., M.P.H., the Vice Chair, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ‘underscored’ the apolitical nature of the mammogram recommendations:
When I found out that these recommendations were being released the week of the vote that was the big vote, I was sort of stunned and then also terrified. And I think my being terrified was actually exactly the right reaction.