Mikulski, Ayotte Continue Fight to Protect Free Mammograms for Women 40 and Older

Press Release

Date: Jan. 12, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) today continued their ongoing fight to protect free annual mammogram screenings for women under 50 after the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) issued final recommendations that would strip away this free preventive health coverage for women age 40 to 49. The Senators have together introduced the bipartisan Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act, which protects free mammograms for women under 50. Senator Mikulski, in her role as Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Ayotte together fought to include key tenants of their PALS Act protecting free mammograms for women 40-49 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 which was signed into law by President Obama.

"For years, there has been conflicting information for women about when to start getting mammograms and how often to keep getting them," said Senator Mikulski, Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "We need more answers. While the various experts continue to look at this issue, my number one priority has always been ensuring that a woman can get a mammogram if she and her doctor decide it's the right thing to do. This means making sure that cost is not a deterrent to care. That's why I fought to ensure that the Affordable Care Act provided FREE annual mammograms for women aged 40-74. And that's why I made sure that the fiscal year 2016 government funding bill included protections so that these women can continue to receive FREE annual mammograms if they want."

"In light of ongoing concerns that the USPSTF's final recommendations will threaten access to mammograms for millions of women, I worked with Senator Mikulski to include legislation in the government funding bill that delays these recommendations for two years, preserving access to breast cancer screenings that can catch cancer early, at its most treatable stage," Senator Ayotte said. "We need to ensure that women have the best information available to make well-informed health care decisions, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to bring greater transparency to the USPSTF and ensure that women continue to have access to lifesaving mammograms."

In August, Senators Mikulski and Ayotte introduced the bipartisan Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act. The PALS Act would place a two-year moratorium on breast cancer screening recommendations from the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), an independent advisory arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that would undermine access to mammography for 22 million women between the ages of 40-49, including approximately 2.8 million African American women who have the highest rate of mortality from breast cancer. The bipartisan PALS Act would allow time for Congress and others to review the impact these recommendations would have on women being screened for this deadly disease, as well as concerns about the USPSTF process. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Congresswomen Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

The bipartisan PALS Act is supported by the following organizations: American College of OB/GYNs, American College of Radiology, AMIC, Bright Pink, Black Women's Health Imperative, Cancer Support Community (formerly the Wellness Community and Gilda's Club), FORCE: Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Susan G. Komen, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Men Against Breast Cancer, Medical Imaging Technology Association, National Black Nurses Association, National Consortium of Breast Centers, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Oncology Nursing Society, Prevent Cancer Foundation, Sharsheret, Society for Breast Imaging, Society for Women's Health Research, Tigerlily Foundation.