NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Politically, new federal guidelines on mammograms couldn't come at a worse time. Women everywhere are wondering if this is what health care rationing will look like. And it involves the type of cancer women are most scared about.
A federal panel says women should get breast cancer screenings starting at age 50 instead of 40. But the report is based on a cost-analysis. It's not a group of doctors reviewing what's best. It's a group of medical accountants looking at the costs of screening people 10 years earlier. And numbers look cold when lives are at stake.
1 in 69 women will get breast cancer in their 40s. It increases to 1 in 42 in their 50s. So the analysis says if a mammogram costs $200, we'll spend $13,800 in preventative screenings before we find an actual cancer case. If breast cancer can be treated for less than $13,800, as most cancers can with today's minimally evasive procedures, "the system" comes out ahead.
The problem is that for most women breast cancer is terrifying. If their insurance companies begin denying coverage for mammograms based on new federal guidelines, there are many women who will pay out of their own pockets. Some will change their minds about supporting health care reform if the "reform" involves them paying more out-of-pocket and getting less coverage. And middle and upper class women in their 40s are generally supporters of health care reform.
This was the type of hard-hearted analysis that the for-profit insurance companies were supposed to do. The health care debate will change as the public realizes that the bean-counters will still be there, they'll just be working for the government instead.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau