Ball & Hudson Valley Lawmakers Decry Big Government’s “One-Size-Fits-All” Mammogram Policy

Assembly Republicans ready to take legislative action to prevent cuts to breast-cancer-screening coverage

Assembly members from the Hudson Valley today joined together in supporting the American Cancer Society and other patient-advocacy organizations in their continued efforts to combat breast cancer by encouraging regular mammogram screenings for women 40 and older. After Saturday’s procedural vote in the Senate, Washington is one step closer to a takeover of our health care system.

Early detection and treatment is key to survival for breast cancer victims, but the recommendations recently released by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of 16 doctors – none of whom is an oncologist – appointed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), conflict with years of standard medical research and practice. Assembly Republicans, including Assemblymen Joel Miller (R,I,C-Poughkeepsie), Marc Molinaro (R,I,C-Red Hook), Greg Ball (R,I,C-Patterson), along with Assemblywomen Annie Rabbitt (R,I,C-Greenwood Lake), and Nancy Calhoun (R,C-Blooming Grove) are concerned with the impact that a “one-size-fits-all” federal health insurance plan would have on women’s health in New York State.

Last week the USPSTF produced a new set of recommendations for HHS that, if adopted by private and public health care providers, would increase the age of breast-cancer screening from 40 to 50 and limit the frequency of tests. Hudson Valley Assembly Republicans are prepared to legislate in order to preserve New York State’s insurance-coverage laws for mammograms if the new federal guidelines are used by private providers, Medicare or Medicaid to restrict the health care choices of women under 50. Insurance companies regularly update their coverage mandates according to a variety of task forces, specialist panels and government guidelines.

The Assembly members point out that breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women, after skin cancer. Medical research has demonstrated that mammograms cut the risk of death from breast cancer for women between the ages of 40 and 60 by over 15 percent. Screenings can also detect breast cancer in 80 to 90 percent of patients without symptoms, according to the American College of Radiology.

“Having worked with many breast cancer groups over the years, I have seen firsthand how devastating this disease can be for women and their families,” said Miller, the only health care professional in the state Assembly and a board member of the American Cancer Society. “Annual mammograms for women over the age of 40 and self-breast examinations lead to early detection that can save lives, so it makes no sense to alter these guidelines. Insurance companies should cover these exams as preventive care, not make these vital visits unaffordable to so many women. We need health care reform in this state and across the nation, but government panels dictating what procedures and exams can and cannot be performed by licensed medical doctors is simply frightening.”

Assemblyman Greg Ball said he stands with the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure in rejecting the new recommendations.

“This departure from standard clinical guidelines can only be attributed to the work of Federal bureaucrats in Washington attempting to control another aspect of the health care system and women’s lives in general,” Ball said. “For months, Hudson Valley residents have been speaking out against the proposed Federal health care takeover. While their pleas may have fallen on deaf ears in the nation’s capitol, they have been heard loud and clear by my colleagues and I, who will continue to fight for market-based health care reform at the state level which will protect women and ensure their access to mammography is not restricted by a health plan dictated by a Federal czar.”

“Nothing is more important than the health of our loved ones. That is why it is comforting to know that health care professionals can and will frequently check for dangerous conditions that might strike unsuspecting people without warning. Cancer is a disease that can appear suddenly and without warning, that’s why the American Cancer Society encourages frequent examinations as essential to early detection and treatment. The federal government is setting a very dangerous precedent by altering common-sense preventive medical practices absent of scientific data that ultimately interferes with vital health decisions; decisions that should be made by a physician and the patient, not a bureaucratic panel,” said Molinaro, also a board member of the American Cancer Society.

“We must save our screenings,” said Rabbitt. “If the task force’s proposals were followed by private insurance providers and public health plans like Medicare and Medicaid, women could find their mammogram coverage either blocked or greatly reduced. We do not need an army of bureaucrats between a woman and her doctor. As a mother and supporter of the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, breast-cancer survivors and their families, I am urging New York State’s leadership to keep our protections for women in place. A healthcare overhaul that restricts a woman’s right to a breast exam is a bad prescription for the Empire State.”

“I have seen too many women of my generation battle this disease to allow the federal government to take away the availability of breast cancer screening to women throughout this country including New York State,” said Calhoun. “Early detection through yearly mammograms saves lives; it is as simple as that. A national health care program which limits mammograms to women under 50 so that it can save money is backwards and bad public policy. But if a plan such as that is put into place, my constituents, and women throughout New York, can be sure that we will work on their behalf so that we can increase access to health care for women, not take it away.”

Hudson Valley Assembly Republicans are committed to protecting women’s health care choices and keeping New York State’s early-detection-coverage rules in place. If private insurance providers apply the USPSTF recommendations to their coverage options, or if federal health care plans such as Medicare and Medicaid cut their benefits, these lawmakers are prepared to offer legislation which would guarantee mammography screenings to all patients, regardless of age, a policy which is currently law in every state except Utah. Hudson Valley Assembly Republicans will continue to stand for patient rights, not federal fiat.

About Greg Ball

Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) is the Senator for New York State's 40th district. A former Vice President of Exceed International Development Corporation, Ball holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the United States Air Force Academy, is currently completing his Masters Thesis of Liberal Studies in International Affairs at Georgetown University, and received an honorable discharge in 2005 at the rank of Captain after service as an active duty officer in the United States Air Force. View all posts by Greg Ball →

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