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Controversies Made Preventive Services Panel Stronger, Says Retired Leader
Kaiser Health News

For its first 25 years, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force toiled in relative obscurity. Created by the federal government in 1984, the task force published books and articles in scientific journals that aimed to inform primary care practitioners about which preventive services were effective based on scientific evidence. It assigns preventive services such as screenings, medication and counseling grades from A to D, or an I for insufficient evidence.

In 2010, everything changed. The massive health care bill that came to be called Obamacare included language requiring that preventive services scoring a grade of A or B from the task force had to be covered by health plans without charging consumers anything out of pocket. In one stroke, this volunteer group of nonpartisan medical experts found themselves thrust into the political hurly burly. Their recommendations, including a controversial 2009 recommendation regarding breast cancer screening, came under intense scrutiny.

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