WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers pressed their case on Wednesday that new U.S. recommendations advising against routine mammograms for women in their 40s could be used to ration health care under reform legislation before Congress, a charge Democrats denied.
The guidelines, issued on Nov. 16 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal scientific advisory panel, scaled back recommendations for annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer in women in their 40s with an average risk for the disease.
The guidelines touched off a debate among cancer doctors.
Many groups, including the American Cancer Society, said they would stick by their current recommendations of starting annual mammogram screening at age 40 because the breast X-rays have been proven to save lives by spotting tumors early on when they are most easily treated.
During a congressional hearing, Republican Representative Joe Barton argued that under Democratic healthcare reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives, the task force could determine what preventive services, including mammograms, would be covered for many Americans.
"To have a task force make the recommendation that has been made, and to have in this bill the authority that's given to various unelected bureaucrats to make health care decisions, including coverage frequency, in my opinion, is wrong," Barton told a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on health.
The Senate is debating its version of health care reform legislation, President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.