PART III: A preview of what’s to come?

ATLANTA – To many, a recent announcement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a sign of things to come.

The task force, a government panel comprised of doctors and scientists, recently announced that most women in their 40s do not need mammograms. The panel also said women should only get them every two years starting at 50, which reversed the American Cancer Society’s long-standing position that women should receive annual mammograms starting once they are 40 years old.

As the health care debate heats up in the Senate, some critics of the Democrats’ plan worry that recommendations and government intervention will only be a detriment to patients and the care they receive.

“Government policy makers need to consider the consequences of such decisions,” Dr. James H. Thrall, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Board of Chancellors and chair of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a news release. “I can’t help but think that we are moving toward a new health care rationing policy that will turn back the clock on medicine for decades and needlessly reverse advances in cancer detection that have saved countless lives.”

In spite of the task force’s recommendations, 84 percent of women between 35 and 49 years old “say they plan to get mammograms before age 50,” USA Today reported, citing a poll the newspaper conducted with Gallup. The poll also revealed that 76 percent of women “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the panel’s recommendations.

During a Wednesday House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said he fears “government-run health care will result in the needs of patients becoming secondary to the federal pocketbook, controlled by Washington bureaucrats.”

Gingrey said he offered an amendment during markup to add language stipulating “no bureaucrat or political appointee shall dictate to a doctor how to practice medicine.” The amendment was defeated along party lines, the Congressman said.

“As a physician, I have dealt with recommendations from many groups – some good, some not,” Gingrey said. “But it was ultimately up to me and my patient to decide what treatment was ultimately best.

“If this bill were to become law, the ultimate loser in this scenario will be patients,” Gingrey said. “…Now, I fear that patient’s needs may one day be in opposition to Washington’s checkbook. If that is the case, I fear that my former patients – in this case, young women – could pay the ultimate price.”

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