"That would represent what most providers accept from insurance companies as payment in full," explained Dr. Jeffrey J. Rice, chief executive officer of the online pricing guide. However, providers may not honor that rate if insurers decide not to cover mammograms before age 50, and in that case, women could be billed upwards of $400, he said.
Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare said in a statement that the ongoing study of mammography testing provides "additional perspectives that can lead to new recommendations from the medical community."
It added that the screening decision "requires a detailed discussion between the patient and her physician, and it should consider the medical evidence, patient preferences and unique clinical issues for each patient."
Chris Curran, director of corporate communications for Cigna Corp. in Philadelphia, also characterized mammography screening as an "individual decision" based on a woman's specific circumstances and medical history.
"Our current coverage policy provides for coverage of screening mammography beginning at age 40, or as young as 25 if a woman is in a high-risk category, and continues to remain in effect," he said.
For more on breast cancer, see the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Susan Pisano, vice president, communications, America's Health Insurance Plans, Washington, D.C.; Randall Abbott, senior health care consultant, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Boston; Joanna Morales, J.D., director, Cancer Legal Resource Center, Los Angeles; Jeffrey J. Rice, M.D., J.D., chief executive officer, The Healthcare Blue Book, Brentwood, Tenn.; Nov. 18, 2009, news release, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Chris Curran, director, corporate communications, Cigna Corp., Philadelphia; prepared statement, UnitedHealthcare, Minneapolis; Employer Health Benefits 2009, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.; Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust; Nov. 17, 2009, Annals of Internal Medicine