Most health plans craft their own coverage policies using guidance from professional medical societies, such as the American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as the government panel that issued the controversial recommendations, Abbott said.
In addition, most states have laws on the books requiring health insurers to pay all or part of the cost of screening mammograms, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Insurers that do business in a state must abide by the law.
However, according to an annual survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust, more than half (57 percent) of all employees receiving health-care coverage from an employer are in "self-funded" plans, and these plans are exempt from state laws.
Medicare, the federal health program for older and disabled Americans, covers annual mammograms starting at age 40, and, according to a statement from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, that won't change. On Thursday, she urged women to "keep doing what you have been doing for years."
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; Nov. 18, 2009, news release, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; 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; Fox News