June 03, 2016

Senate HELP Committee Engages in ACR Hill Day Issue

Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter on May 16, 2016, to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell regarding the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

The American College of Radiology (ACR) was pleased Alexander drafted the letter because the College shares many of the concerns that he raised regarding the USPSTF’s transparency and methodology it uses during its recommendation process.

Issues raised in the letter are also consistent with the message ACR members delivered in face-to-face discussions with their elected representatives and staffs during the College’s Capitol Hill Day, which was part of its annual meeting in Washington, DC, on May 18.

The letter points out that because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, USPSTF recommendations now could have the effect of eliminating insurance coverage for certain cancer screening activities, despite lacking rules for transparency, accountability and opportunity for public notice and comment that are similar to other federal rulemaking agencies,

While acknowledging USPSTF’s expanded role in coverage decisions, Alexander wants to ensure the recommendation process is open and fair. He included a series of questions for Burwell regarding the USPSTF membership, its use of experts and for ensuring the development of a department-wide process for consistent research and policy.
Alexander was joined on the letter by four members of the Senate Finance Committee.

They included Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The committee holds jurisdiction over physician reimbursement issues.

The senators have requested a response from HHS by June 3. The ACR will continue to monitor this issue.