Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Pap smears are a regular health care item for women, and are considered covered expenses under many health plans; indeed, many of the newer HDHP's cover them as first dollar expenses (meaning that most of the cost is borne by the carrier, regardless of whether or not one has met the deductible).
And that's a good thing.
Or is it?
Once a decade? That could represent a significant cost savings, for both insureds and insurers. But is cheaper better?
Maybe so:
Scientists' "optimism is based on an eight-year study of 130,000 women in India financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and published ... in The New England Journal of Medicine. It is the first to show that a single screening with the DNA test beats all other methods at preventing advanced cancer and death."
"All other methods." That's significant.
On the other hand, the old adage about the roof that isn't leaking still holds sway:
"But whether the new test is adopted will depend on many factors, including hesitation by gynecologists to abandon Pap smears, which have been remarkably effective. Cervical cancer was a leading cause of death for American women in the 1950s; it now kills fewer than 4,000 a year."
That's a significant reduction on cervical cancer-related deaths; while 4,000 still leaves a lot of sad widowers, parents and children, it's a far cry from a "leading cause of death." So the question is whether the new test can put a significant enough dent on those remaining 4,000 to persuade OBGYN's to abandon the old Pap smear en masse.
Time will tell.
[Hat Tip: Holly Robinson]
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