During the debate today on the healthcare reform bill, senators approved an amendment that would require health insurers to cover mammograms for women ages 40 to 49.
The Senate approved the amendment 61 to 39, which disregards the recent recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that indicated that women under 50 should not undergo routine mammograms.
The Mikulski amendment, named for Barbara Mikulski, democratic senator from Maryland, and sponsored by Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana), would increase coverage and eliminate co-pays for more women’s preventive services than was contained in the original bill presentation.
Specifically, the amendment directs insurance plans to cover annual mammograms for women under 50, cervical cancer screenings for a broad group of women, pregnancy and postpartum depression screenings, screenings for domestic violence, and other annual health screenings, including tests for heart disease and diabetes.
"My amendment guarantees screening for breast cancer, yes, mammograms," Mikulski said in prepared statement issued when she first introduced her amendment earlier in the week. "We don't mandate that you have a mammogram at age 40. What we say is discuss this with your doctor, but if your doctor says you need one, my amendment says you are going to get one."
The USPSTF issued a statement on Wednesday that “Women in their 40s should begin getting mammograms whenever they want” and that “their poorly worded recommendations last month confused people.” Physicians with the group state that they intended to state that screening is more effective in those aged 50-74.
The Senate will continue to vote on several other amendments throughout the day and the debate on the healthcare bill is expected to last weeks.