CANCER SCREENING: House Clears Bill with HPV Amendments
The House Commerce Committee yesterday unanimously approved the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act including Rep. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) amendments to address HPV. The bill would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer-related treatments for certain low-income women diagnosed through the CDC's early detection program. Under the bill, the federal government would reimburse states for at least 75% of the treatment costs for women diagnosed in the federal screening programs who are ineligible for Medicaid but are under age 65, lack health insurance and have incomes up to 250% of the poverty line (Rich, National Journal News Service, 10/28). The measure was delayed for several weeks while Reps. Rick Lazio (R-NY) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the bill's sponsors, worked out an agreement with Coburn, settling on amendments that call for the CDC to track HPV cases and create a public assistance program, as well as direct the FDA to create a label on condom packages to warn users that condoms do not effectively prevent HPV and that HPV can cause cervical cancer (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 10/29). In her introductory remarks before the committee, Eshoo called the amendments a "good compromise" and one she believed the entire committee could accept (Amanda Wolfe, American Health Line). In earlier committee meetings, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) was wary of adding Coburn's amendments and had called for further research on HPV. Asserting that he "strongly" supported the bill, Waxman still expressed concern about the condom label. He said that in informing people of the fact that condom use may not block the transmission of HPV, "we want to be sure that we do not end up with an unintended effect of confusing people about the situations when condoms do work -- in HIV transmission to name only one, and actually reduce their use. I fear that the requirements that both the label and all labeling include information on HPV can result in so much information on a small package that it reduces the effectiveness of any information" (Waxman release, 10/28). Waxman is not alone is his criticism of the amendments. Coburn, who has drawn the ire of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, lashed out at the group yesterday for not supporting his condom label proposal, saying, "It is very disappointing that the organization most directly concerned with the health of American women has not done what it could have done to help prevent disease. I hope that when we take our next step in Congress to improve women's health, ACOG will be pulling with us instead of against us" (Coburn release, 10/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.