Previously Obscure Government Panel Limiting Access to Care?

In the latest Health Policy Outlook AEI health expert Scott Gottlieb, MD explains how a previously obscure government advisory panel now wields tremendous powers to decide which preventive health care services public and private insurance will cover.

The same group that caused a major public panic--and triggered a nationwide debate--in November 2009 by suggesting that women age 40 to 49 should not get routine mammograms is now empowered to make de facto binding opinions on which preventive care services will be covered.

Among Gottlieb’s Key Points:

  • Under President Obama’s health care plan, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now wields great power to decide which health services (like mammograms) doctors should provide, yet it has few checks on its sweeping authority.
  • One of the USPSTF mandates--that health plans and insurers cover certain preventative health services with no co-pays--will raise health insurance costs and premiums, while reducing the number of covered preventive services.
  • To improve accountability for an agency that is both out of date with the medical community and out of touch with the public, Congress should closely monitor the impact new mandates have on patient care.
"To those who feared that considerations of cost and the determinations of centralized processes could drive decision making under PPACA [commonly known as ObamaCare], the USPSTF may become a visible manifestation of these concerns. Proponents of this sort of centralized decision making may have done their policy prerogatives significant harm by allowing a group with so little procedural rigor to represent the leading edge of these kinds of prescriptions."

Scott Gottlieb is a practicing physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was deputy commissioner of the FDA and a senior adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He can be reached at [email protected].


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