The Washington Post
reports that the "once-obscure federal panel that triggered a firestorm with its new mammography guidelines would get far greater authority under the health-care reform proposals pending in Congress, sparking more debate about its power and independence. Critics of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say that the panel would become a stealth tool for government bureaucrats bent on rationing health care. Supporters worry that little-noticed provisions to overhaul the group would jeopardize its long-valued objectivity." The task force has been "the federal government's primary source of recommendations for doctors and patients" since it was created in 1984. It provides expert guidance "on how to try to prevent health problems. Although its guidelines have long been considered authoritative and have been used to determine some Medicare coverage, the group's conclusions have been primarily advisory." But in the health bills pending in both the Senate and House, "the panel's ratings would serve as the basis for determining which preventive services the government would require insurance plans to cover at little or no cost to patients" (Stein, 12/20).
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