New rules for preventive care announced on Wednesday this week are designed to make selected services and screening tests available at no out-of-pocket cost to US consumers. However, prostate cancer testing will not be encompassed by these rules.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the rules require that health insurance plans must cover certain preventive services at no additional charge to their members. These services include:
- Screenings strongly recommended (with a grade of “A” or “B”) by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
- Routine vaccines — including childhood immunizations through to tetanus boosters for adults
- Well-baby visits to a pediatrician, vision and hearing tests for kids, and counseling to help youngsters maintain a healthy weight
- Women’s health screenings, including tests to be required under guidelines that are still in development and not expected to be be announced until August 2011.
Mass, population-based prostate cancer screening (as opposed to individual testing) does not have a recommended “A” or “B” grade from the USPSTF, and despite what some would argue, The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink does not believe that there are data available to support a national recommendation that all men over a specific age should get annual PSA testing.
However, if there are going to be “women’s health screenings” required under guidelines still in development, there is most certainly an equally good argument for “men’s health screenings” — and for men with any significant degree of risk for or worry about prostate cancer we believe that regular testing should be encouraged based on sound guidance.
What we have here is a classic case of gender discrimination which women’s groups (and gay rights groups) would be howling about if it was being applied to them, and which most men won’t even notice. Men are at specific risk for disorders that have no impact or less impact on women (just as the reverse is also true). The lack of a national Office of Men’s Health within the Department of Health and Human Services means there is no advocacy within the Executive Branch of government for men’s health issues and it is shameful that we continue to practice this type of selective discrimination simply because men don’t make enough effort to act on this issue. Women simply don’t vote for legislators who don’t take a strong position on women’s health issues. Men don’t even ask their legislators whether they have a position on health issues at all — let alone men’s health issues.
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Now the new rules do not mean that you won’t be able to get an annual PSA test if you need one. What they mean is that the amount that PSA test costs you will depend on your insurance carrier (as it always has to date). Men who have only minimal health insurance may therefore find that they have to pay the full cost of a PSA test. Those with better insurance would likely continue to get the test at no cost (except for the regular co-pay for the doctor’s visit).