Planned Parenthood, which lauded the amendment's approval, said the underlying bill didn't eliminate copays for regular well-women visits, breast exams, and contraceptive services, but the Mikulski amendment does. The amendment would cost $940 million over a decade, the Associated Press reported.
Immediately following the Mikulski vote, senators rejected a Republican amendment by a vote of 41 to 59. That amendment, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would have essentially banned the government from relying on the guidelines from the USPSTF.
Although the USPSTF has been accused of playing politics in deciding to downgrade mammograms from women under 50, the two chairs of the task force told a congressional panel on Wednesday that politics played no role in their decision. Diana Petitti, MD, MPH, vice chair of the USPSTF, said she didn't even know that the task force was referenced in the healthcare reform bills.
The American Cancer Society (ACS), which opposed the new USPSTF guidelines, also opposed Murkowski's amendment. A spokesman for the ACS said the group doesn't want to see the USPSTF eliminated.
"We're supportive of the task force per se, but we'd like to see provisions that clarify the way they operate," said Stephen Finan, senior director for policy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "What we want to see is an essential benefits package that is evidenced-based."
The Senate will continue to vote on several other amendments throughout the day, and Sen. Harry Reid said debate on the healthcare bill is expected to last weeks. He told senators to plan to work through upcoming weekends.