The first amendment introduced on the floor of the Senate comes from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, seeking to add a provision included in the HELP Committee version of the bill. This measure would mandate coverage – for free – for various women’s preventive health procedures and screenings. This is a direct response to the controversy surrounding the US Preventive Services Task Force’s changing guidelines over mammograms.

In the bill, the USPSTF guidelines are seen as a baseline for the minimum guaranteed benefits in any health care plan. The Health and Human Services Secretary could go beyond those guidelines in the implementation stage. But it is unclear whether HHS would offer those additional services free of co-pays. Mikulski’s amendment would certify a number of women’s health services eligible for the exemption from cost-sharing. Given the way conservatives pounced on the USPSTF recommendations, it’s a smart play. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to vote against covering mammograms at this stage, for example.

A draft of the Mikulski amendment as it appeared in the HELP Committee is available here. One can assume that what has been offered on the Senate floor is similar. Mikulski said in her floor speech that the amendment would cost $1 billion, per CBO.

By clarifying the guidelines on women’s health measures, this measure does improve the bill.

…this makes Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), running for US Senate, look like a maroon for claiming that the reform bills could make the USPSTF recommendations on mammograms “law.”