Richard H. Hughes, IV, and Devon R. Minnick, attorneys in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, co-authored an article in Health Affairs, titled “On Biden’s ‘Moonshot,’ the Task Force Misses the Aim.” Hailey Genaw, Summer Associate, also contributed to this article.

Following is an excerpt:

The US Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force or USPSTF), the expert group charged since 1984 with recommending clinical preventive interventions, has the important task of making cancer screening recommendations. Yet, the body has struggled to fully account for persistent health disparities and the emergence of new technology in its approach to setting recommendations.

The Task Force was established by Congress to create and update recommendations for “clinical preventive care.” The Task Force’s recommendations achieved greater significance when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) established mandatory coverage without cost sharing for all of its A and B grade recommendations. A grade A or B recommendation reflects the Task Force’s certainty that an intervention is likely to yield substantial or moderate benefits, respectively, for the recommended population. C or D grade recommendations are not subject to the ACA’s coverage requirement. A grade C recommendation means that a provider should offer the service “only if other considerations support the offering or providing the service in an individual patient,” while D recommendations mean offering is discouraged.

Therefore, the Task Force’s recommendations are paramount in ensuring equitable access to preventive services. An expectation that proper and timely screenings will be not only recommended by providers but covered by health insurance, for the appropriate at-risk populations dictates that the Task Force act with great care and due speed in developing its recommendations.

The Task Force has the monumental task of balancing benefits and harms for the interventions it recommends. This necessitates that the Task Force to be more in-tune with relevant innovations in screening technology and evidence regarding the disparate impacts of certain cancers. Yet, recent decisions and subsequent reversals have created questions surrounding the Task Force’s ability to account for these crucial pieces of evidence.

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