Senate approves free preventive services for women

The Senate has voted to require health plans to provide free mammograms and other female-specific preventive services to women. In effect, the move repudiates the recent recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force raising the recommended age for routine mammograms to age 50 rather than 40.

The coverage requirement, which comes as an amendment to the Senate's version of health reform, was backed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md). Under the terms of her proposal, a federal agency known as the Health Resources and Services Administration would develop "comprehensive guidelines" recommending a schedule of preventive screenings and care for women.

Insurers would have to cover any care recommended by this agency without imposing co-payments or deductibles. This goes well beyond the existing bill, which eliminates co-payments and deductibles for men, women and children getting preventive care, but doesn't dig deep into women's issues.

Most likely, the services touched upon by the new agency would include screenings for breast, cervical, ovarian and lung cancer; heart disease and diabetes; and postpartum depression and domestic violence, Sen. Mikulski told the press. Her bill should cost an estimated $940 million over the next 10 years. It doesn't exclude abortion from the definition of preventive care, which raised complaints from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

To get more background on the proposal:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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