The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued new guidelines that require new private health plans to cover preventive services, including mammography starting at age 40.

The new guidelines state that new health plans that start on or after September 23, 2010, must cover preventive services "that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits," an HHS statement said. In addition, these plans may no longer charge co-payments, co-insurance, or deductibles for these services when they're offered by a network provider.

HHS classifies evidence-based preventive services as those that have received a grade of A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Regarding screening mammography, the HHS announcement specifically uses the USPSTF's guidelines from 2002, which recommend that mammography screening begin at age 40; the task force's controversial guidelines from November 2009, recommending that screening begin at 50, were labeled as "not considered to be current" in the new HHS rules.

The announcement carries out provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year that were designed to support disease prevention, according to HHS.

By staff writers
July 14, 2010