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No Immediate Changes Expected in Mammogram Coverage
Date:11/20/2009

Health plans say routine screening is an individual decision

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Women can rest assured, at least for now, that their health plan will continue to pay for an annual mammogram beginning at age 40.

A firestorm set off this week by a federal task force recommendation against "routine screening" of women under 50 is not likely to spur hasty changes in coverage policies, experts say.

"We're not hearing that coverage is going to change. We're hearing that coverage will continue pretty much as it has been," said Susan Pisano, vice president of communications for America's Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C.

Randall Abbott, a senior health care consultant in the Boston office of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, has talked to most major health plans and numerous "self-funded" employers -- companies that bear the cost of employee medical claims and administer their own insurance plans -- and all are taking the recommendations "under advisement," he said.

Insurers and employers will likely "delay taking any action until more of a consensus has been reached among the warring parties," he said.

The new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, published in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggest that women can postpone having a routine mammogram until age 50. It used to recommend those screenings for women in their 40s. And instead of screening every year, it now says screening can take place every two years.

A woman's decision to start earlier, the task force added, "should be an individual one," weighing the benefits and harms, such as false-positive results and unnecessary biopsies.

The new advice prompted an outcry from patient advocacy groups and professional societies that urge women to continue getting annual mammograms beginning at age 40.

Most health plans craft their own coverage policies usin
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