iWatch News from the Center for Public Integrity
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has taken some heat from his fellow Republican presidential candidates for having signed a controversial executive order that mandated vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) for sixth-grade girls in 2007, an order the Legislature later overturned.
It turns out that isn't the only medical procedure Perry has ordered. Two years later, in 2009, Perry quietly signed a health insurance mandate that some experts say could waste vast sums of money and provide little medical benefit, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit investigative group:
The 2009 measure, the Texas Heart Attack Prevention Bill, requires insurance companies to pay for CT scans and ultrasound tests that can detect heart disease. The companies must reimburse middle-aged and elderly citizens up to $200 for these tests, if they are either diabetic or at intermediate or higher risk of developing cardiovascular illness. They need not have any actual heart problems.
Nearly 2.4 million Texans fall into this group, estimates Dr. Amit Khera, a professor at Texas' Southwestern Medical Center. If one fourth of them had the appropriate insurance and took advantage of the benefit only once, insurance companies would be required to spend $120 million. There is no data on how many people have actually used the benefit.
Yet there is little evidence that the tests can improve people's health, some experts say, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of health experts, does not recommend the tests for routine screening.
CPI reports that the measure was promoted by a medical group with a history of ties to Pfizer Inc., which makes the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. Campaign finance reports show that Perry received more money from Pfizer than any other political candidate nationwide over the last six years.
CPI said a spokesman for Perry declined to address the issues raised by Pfizer's support, but he has previously dismissed assertions that he solicited funds from donors who sought special benefits as "ridiculous."
iWatch News is the website of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigative journalism.