Critical Condition

Political Health Insurance

The new statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on breast-cancer screening lead the news today.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gets a special role in the politicization of health insurance in the House-passed health-reform bill. Section 222, “Essential Benefits Package Defined,” says all health plans in America must cover services that get a grade of “A” or “B” from the task force. The task force now gives routine screening mammography for women aged 40 to 49 a “C” grade. (“The USPFTF recommends against routinely providing the service.”) 

The push for prevention in the House bill was offered as a positive example of what turning over the definition of health insurance to the federal government would produce. The conflicting response to the task force’s new recommendation shows that even this best example can have a downside. Today, a recommendation from the task force is just that: a recommendation. Millions of employers and thousands of insurance plans will decide what will be done with it. It will be a broad debate, with many decisions made in many places with many possible results, results that can go one way and then another way if the parties later decide they don’t like where they first land. With political health insurance, the task force will have the force of law.  

Yesterday’s task force release is a foretaste of things to come should political health insurance further displace private actors in deciding what is health insurance. 

–  Hanns Kuttner is a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute.

The Latest