NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 18, 2004

Women face waits as long as five months to obtain mammography services in the United States, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies. The average wait for mammograms in major urban areas is six weeks or more. Furthermore:

  • The number of mammography facilities decreased from 9,400 to 8,600 between 2000 and 2003, though the number of mammography machines has risen.
  • Women are increasingly obtaining yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, but breast cancer still kills more than 40,000 women each year.

The report's authors cite low Medicare reimbursements, high malpractice insurance premiums, and regulatory burdens as causes of the delays:

  • Medicare reimburses doctors $82 per mammogram, while the average cost to conduct a mammogram at a free-standing clinic is $87; the average cost of conducting a mammogram at a hospital is $105.
  • Savings of as much as $100 million dollars yearly could be realized from reducing the number of false positives when reading mammograms.

Conducting mammograms exposes doctors to more medical malpractice claims than any other specialty. The American College of Radiology calls for tort reform to address the issue of high malpractice premiums.

According to report chair Edward Penhoet, improving and increasing the use of current mammography technology is the most effective strategy we have right now for further reducing the toll of breast cancer.

Source: Rita Rubin, "Mammogram wait times can often exceed three months," USA Today, June 13, 2004; based upon, Janet E. Joy, et al., "Saving Women's Lives: Strategies for Improving Breast Cancer Detection and Diagnosis," Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies, June 10, 2004.

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