Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't screen for cancer: insurance companies get smart

So the recent news says that women no longer need as much cancer screening. Mammogram recommendations have changed to begin at 50, not 40, and to be done less frequently. The recommendations for cervical cancer tests have also been adjusted (reduced). We all know that it costs less to treat something in the initial stage, which is why early detection had been promoted so much. But it costs even less to not treat something, at any stage. Why pay for early screening, which then means you may have to pay for early treatment, when you can just drop someone off your insurance plan if they ever develop something? I have great concerns about the motivation behind these new recommendations. Especially since there was not one oncologist on the panel that produced the new recommendations for mammograms. I have dozens of patients who would not have known they had breast cancer if they had to wait until they were 50 to get their first mammogram.

Now, I am not a great fan of the mammogram nor the pap smear, but I am not sure that they are so useless and should not be performed. I wonder, if the recommended use of medical services is reduced, will our premiums reduce as well. It seems that, if these recommendations are followed, that insurance companies will be paying for half as many regular cancer screenings. Will they pass on those savings?

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