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HHS Nominee Tom Price Targeted Panel That Urged Fewer Cancer Screenings

By ProPublica  
   February 01, 2017

Despite the complaints, the mammogram recommendations were issued in 2016. Proponents praised them as the fruit of the task force's independent and evidence-based approach. But the guidelines raised the ire of a much more powerful constituency: the urologists and radiologists who made billions of dollars off the testing and related procedures.

The dirty underbelly of screening is that it's a great way to get more patients," said Dr. Gilbert Welch, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and a close observer of the task force's work. "The financial underpinnings are huge."

The health-care industry spends more money lobbying Congress than almost any other sector, according to the tracking site Price, an orthopedic surgeon, took in $479,000 in health professional donations in the 2016 campaign cycle, one of the largest sums to any member of Congress.

To be sure, the industry has a host of more pressing concerns, from the ACA and Medicare and Medicaid to the cost of drugs. But the task force's recommendations have continued to draw complaints by lawmakers who received financial support from the industry.

In November, lawmakers bashed its screening recommendations during a hearing of the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The task force "can deprive patients of lifesaving services," said Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas who received nearly $611,000 from health professionals in the 2016 campaign cycle. 

His colleague, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who received $259,000 in donations from health professionals in the 2016 campaign cycle, predicted equally dire outcomes. The task force, she said, "turned its back on over 20 million women by finalizing erroneous guidelines that would limit access to mammograms."

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

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