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There's a panel of volunteer doctors whose decisions affect nearly everyone who has health insurance. They review scientific literature and pass judgment on preventive medical services. The panel is called the Preventive Services Task Force.
Since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010, the panel's judgments have carried added weight. Insurance companies must now pay for the preventive tests or drugs the group recommends. That's why some former members are now calling for a change. NPR's Alison Kodjak reports.
ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: The task force has been controversial almost since it was created back in 1984, but before the new Obamacare rules, its advice was just that - advice. Now if task force members recommend something like, say, a mammogram every X number of years, insurance companies must pay 100 percent of the cost, and that's raise the stakes for doctors and drug companies.
VIRGINIA MOYER: The task force is lobbied all the time.
KODJAK: Virginia Moyer was chair of the task force for three years. She's the lead author of an article in the current Annals of Internal Medicine where three former task force leaders argue that tying its medical recommendations to insurance coverage can corrupt the process.
As one example, she points to efforts by the maker of EpiPens, Mylan, to get the task force to deem the drug a preventive medication so it's covered at a hundred percent.
MOYER: What Mylan has done or what they're attempting to do with this effort is to use a provision in law which is intended to give people access to preventive services and use it to their advantage for something that just plain is not a preventive service.
KODJAK: Mylan has been criticized by consumers and members of Congress for raising the price of EpiPens more than 500 percent in recent years. Having the device fully covered would mask the high cost.
Douglas Kamerow is a former assistant surgeon general who worked on the task force staff in the 1980s. He says lobbying like Mylan's has become a real problem for the task force.
DOUGLAS KAMEROW: They're constantly being barraged with all kinds of specialist societies who want their particular procedure covered or drug companies who want their preventive drug coverage. And so that's something that they shouldn't need to worry about.
KODJAK: But Kamerow doesn't agree with the second argument made by the article's authors that money being spent on preventive care because of the Affordable Care Act raises the cost of health care for people who are sick. He says in the past, many checkups and screenings weren't even covered by insurance.
KAMEROW: And so now we have an incentive to deliver the appropriate evidence based on preventive services by having no co-pay and no deductible. That's a good thing.
KODJAK: And economists like Joe Antos at the American Enterprise Institute say it's unlikely that preventive services are a major driver of health care inflation.
JOE ANTOS: I would argue that they've contributed, but we're talking generally about rising health care costs. It's not just preventive services.
KODJAK: Antos and Kamerow say most health care spending comes not from preventive care but from hospital stays and end-of-life care. So de-linking the task force from the ACA is unlikely to cut the cost to consumers. But it may cut back on lobbying by companies like Mylan, who want the task force to bless their products. Alison Kodjak, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.