By Millicent Gorham
At the Alliance for Women’s Health & Prevention (AWHP) we are focused on driving policy that advances equitable, accessible and affordable preventive health care for all women and girls. Every day we engage in advocacy and policy conversations to help break down barriers for patients to access preventive care and treatments, detection and diagnostics, and vaccines.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a critical driver of patient access to preventive health care. It needs a budget increase of $3M for FY2024, bringing its total budget from $11.5M to $14.5M. The volunteer-based organization provides recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications. Those with an A or B recommendation from USPSTF are provided to patients at no cost.
The USPSTF aims to review and update existing recommendations every five years, but they are under-resourced and multi-year delays are common. With rapid developments in biomedical innovation, the current pace of USPSTF updates can inadvertently cause significant lags in the adoption of promising new screening technologies. Simply put, the organization lacks the resources to keep pace with innovation. Congress needs to increase funding for USPSTF before the start of next year.
President Biden recognized the impact of this gap in USPSTF resources and included additional funding in his proposed FY2024 budget, but Congress has yet to act. With this funding increase, the Administration has said the USPSTF would have the resources to conduct additional screening test reviews and lead a greater analysis of prevailing health inequities that could support early reviews for some recommendations.
USPSTF under-funding is not a new problem, but it is more urgent now than ever before. Blood-based colorectal cancer (CRC) screening tests are currently under FDA review and could be available as soon as 2024. Currently, 1 in 3 Americans remain unscreened for colorectal cancer. However, blood-based CRC tests that can be incorporated into a patient’s routine medical care have the potential to help close this gap.
Research has found that a woman’s lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 26. Colorectal cancer screening can help detect cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. But screening rates remain low with current modalities. Without a ~$3M increase in funding for the USPSTF, 84M Americans could face barriers to access for new blood-based CRC screening tests that could help close screening gaps.