HHS Nominee Tom Price Targeted Panel That Urged Fewer Cancer Screenings – for obvious financial reasons
Fewer screenings = less money coming to the health industry.
Like any good capitalist business, any erosion of revenue is a problem to be fixed. Even if the screenings are not useful in terms of patient welfare, they are very useful in terms of corporate revenue. So Price and others of that mindset—that corporate profits are much more important than patient welfare—fought that panel fiercely.
Looks like Price will have the last laugh. He’ll use all his influence and power to divert as much public money as possible (both directly from the public and from the taxes they’ve paid and the insurance they buy) toward the health industry. That is his mission, pure and simple. “It’s raining gravy, grab a bucket!” That seems to describe the general direction of the Trump administration: e.g., Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Pruitt as head of EPA, Betsy deVos for Education, Jeff Sessions for DoJ. An equivalent description: “Make hay while the sun shines!” It won’t last forever and they know it, so they’re going to move fast, and quite obviously unhampered by any notions of collegiality, restraint, or decency. They’ll work the refs for all their worth, and they clearly have disciplined and organized legions to call upon: just read this article.
If liberals and progressives don’t get some discipline and organization, it’s game over. Take a look at this earlier post for specific steps.
It was Marshall Allen’s report in ProPublica that set me off. It begins:
If the last few years are any guide, one group that may find itself in the crosshairs of Rep. Tom Price, President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, is an influential panel of medical experts.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, a group of mostly physician and academics from top universities, reviews medical practices to see whether they are supported by research and evidence.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the group’s recommendations have been used to guide private insurers. If the group gives a test high marks, insurers are required to cover it. If it doesn’t, they are free not to.
But letters reviewed by ProPublica show that Price twice pushed HHS to quash the task force’s recommendations to limit widely used cancer screenings. The panel said that the screenings too often led to unnecessary biopsies and other harmful treatment.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted a Tuesday vote on Price’s nomination, citing unanswered ethics questions.
In 2011, Price and other lawmakers signed a letter asking the head of HHS to “push for the withdrawal” of the panel’s draft prostate screening recommendations. The panel was made up of “bureaucrats,” the letter said, and decisions about prostate testing were best left to doctors and their patients. “This recommendation jeopardizes the health of countless American men,” the letter said.
The task force went ahead and in 2012 recommended that men of all ages forgo using blood tests to search for prostate cancer. The recommendation didn’t apply to men with a history of prostate cancer.
Three years later, Price signed two letters protesting the task force’s proposed recommendations that mammograms be given every two years for healthy and risk-free women between the ages of 50 and 74, and by individual choice for women between 40 and 49. Other groups, including the American College of Radiology, recommend starting mammograms at 40 and having them every year or two.
In May 2015, Price and other lawmakers wrote that the task force recommendations “would jeopardize access to screenings.” In June, a second letter signed by Price and others with the GOP Doctors Caucus, went further, urging the head of HHS to ensure the recommendations weren’t finalized. The recommendations, the letter said, could “result in thousands of additional breast cancer deaths.”
Despite the complaints, the mammogram recommendations were issued in 2016. Proponents praised them as the fruit of the task force’s independent and evidence-based approach. But the guidelines raised the ire of a much more powerful constituency: the urologists and radiologists who made billions of dollars off the testing and related procedures.
“The dirty underbelly of screening is that it’s a great way to get more patients,” said Dr. Gilbert Welch, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and a close observer of the task force’s work. “The financial underpinnings are huge.”
The health-care industry spends more money lobbying Congress than almost any other sector, according to the tracking site OpenSecrets.org. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, took in $479,000 in health professional donations in the 2016 campaign cycle, one of the largest sums to any member of Congress.
To be sure, the industry has a host of more pressing concerns, from the ACA and Medicare and Medicaid to the cost of drugs. But the task force’s recommendations have continued to draw complaints by lawmakers who received financial support from the industry.
In November, lawmakers bashed its screening recommendations during a hearing of the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The task force “can deprive patients of lifesaving services,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas who received nearly $611,000 from health professionals in the 2016 campaign cycle.
His colleague, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who received $259,000 in donations from health professionals in the 2016 campaign cycle, predicted equally dire outcomes. The task force, she said, “turned its back on over 20 million women by finalizing erroneous guidelines that would limit access to mammograms.”
Earlier this month, Blackburn re-introduced legislation that would, among other things, . . .
Don’t you just know that police departments across the country are going to militarize in terms of equipment, training, and mindset like there’s no tomorrow.