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Senate Approves Legislation Requiring Free Mammograms

The Senate approved an amendment to the healthcare insurance reform legislation yesterday that requires insurance companies to provide women with free mammograms and other preventative screening services. The amendment was approved on a 61 to 39 vote.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the amendment and told the New York Times, “My amendment offers key preventive services, including an annual women’s health screening that would go to a comprehensive assessment, including the dangers to women in heart disease and in diabetes.”

In November, an independent panel appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services released a controversial recommendation that women should not have mammograms until their 50s and that subsequent mammograms should be performed every other year. The recommendation caused outrage among many organizations including the American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology, who had said they would continue to adhere to their established guidelines.

It is not clear whether or not Mikulski’s amendment would include birth control coverage, although Tait Sye, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America told RH Reality Check that the amendment “allows Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to recommend what should be covered, so HRSA can/could recommend birth control be covered.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced a broader women’s health amendment that was defeated yesterday on a 59 to 41 vote. This amendment included the same requirement, but specifically barred the denial of an insurance item on the basis of a “recommendation made by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.”

Sources:

New York Times 12/3/09; RH Reality Check 12/3/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/17/09