News release from the Senator's Office
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today voiced dismay that the Senate rejected an amendment he co-sponsored to ensure health insurers listen to doctors, not Washington bureaucrats, when determining whether to cover preventative services such as mammograms for women in their 40s.
The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 41-59. Under Senate rules, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass.
Instead, the Senate passed a much weaker amendment on preventive care pushed by the Democrats that would still allow a government task force to heavily influence health care coverage decisions. The Democrats' amendment, which passed 61-39, also opens the door for abortions to potentially be covered as "preventive care." Isakson voted against the Democrats' amendment.
"The recent controversial recommendations by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force on mammograms raise very serious concerns about the implications of government guidelines on the health of all Americans," Isakson said. "The amendment I co-sponsored would have helped prevent the type of rationing of health care that would take place under the Democratic health care proposal. I am disappointed the Senate rejected this amendment in favor of one that allows a government panel to continue to influence coverage on critical health care issues for women and all Americans."
On Nov. 16, 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued controversial guidelines stating that women should begin regular breast cancer screening at age 50, not 40. The Preventative Services Task Force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Under the Senate Democrats' health care bill, preventive care services are tied to the recommendations of the Preventive Services Task force. The amendment Isakson co-sponsored would have eliminated this provision of the bill and would have prohibited the Secretary of Health and Human Services from using recommendations from the task force to deny coverage of any item or service.
The amendment Isakson co-sponsored also would have required that insurers consult the medical guidelines and recommendations of relevant professional medical organizations, including recommendations relating to the coverage of women's preventive services such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, when determining what preventive items and services to provide. Plans would have been required to disclose such guidelines and recommendations to enrollees.
In addition, the amendment Isakson co-sponsored would have prevented the use of comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage under a federal health program and prohibited the HHS secretary from defining or classifying abortion or abortion services as preventive care or as preventive services.