Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sexual Politics of Health Care

As Harry Reid pressures holiday-homebound Democrats to vote for a start of the Senate health care debate, Republican resisters have found a new weapon to use against the bill--a sudden deep concern about how it might threaten women's bodies.

Seizing on a quasi-government task force's report this week recommending that annual mammograms start at 50 rather than 40, the GOP has gone into full outrage mode.

"This is how rationing begins," warns Rep. Marsha Blackburn. "This is the little toe in the edge of the water. This is when you start getting a bureaucrat between you and your physician."

Never mind that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius immediately made it clear that the US Preventive Services Task Force “is an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations” and who neither “set federal policy” nor “determine what services are covered by the federal government.”

“The task force has presented some new evidence for consideration,” she noted, “but our policies remain unchanged. Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.”

In fact, the recommendation has provided a starting point, as it was intended to do, for debate of the issue, rather than a mandate, and has met heavy resistance from physicians and patients as well as the American Cancer Society.

But the Republican opposition is doing its thing again. Just as it converted voluntary end-of-life discussions into death panels, the know-nothings are trying to turn a scientific finding into a mandate to frighten American women.

The GOP elephant these days is looking more and more like the three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil but speak it at every possible turn.


Holte Ender said...

What Rep. Blackburn did not mention was the Task Force was assembled under the previous administration.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

I don't think that problem people have is with the task force or even with their recommendation. Those government studies have been coming out for years, and the only thing they've ever affected was Medicare and Medicaid. The concern is how much weight such studies will bear with the government running the show.

When the studies affected what Medicare would cover, seniors would simply purchase additional insurance to fill in. The concern, I think, is that if the government-run program is passed (and it is looking like it will be, alas), and as the years go by (at 5 years, according to the House bill), people will no longer be able to buy their own policies outside the government "pool." Anyone not on a private plan at the first of the year (though maybe the date will be changed as the process is taking longer than anyone thought) will be unable to get it into one that is not either of the government of approved by the government. So if, for instance, you have a great plan, somehow manage to stay on it (your employer keeps it and pays the steep taxes for it, for some bizarre reason), and then you have a child. You cannot put your child on your plan. (that's straight out of HR 3200, so may have been changed in the interim, but you get the picture. It's about pushing people onto the government plan. It's the only way to pay for it.).

As the private insurance industry adjusts to the government-run system, they'll necessarily have to do a couple of things. One, is to follow the dictates of the government on what is "acceptable" coverage. Because of this, people worry, I think with justification, that the government will also be dictating what "acceptable" coverage means in terms of preventative tests and procedures, like mammography and pap smears.

The irony here, the thing that I find somewhat compelling, is the blatant push at women's medicine, women's health. We've worked for so many years to achieve the same measure of care as our male counterparts, and what's the first thing hoisted up the flagpole to see if we all salute? Yep, our breasts and cervixes (cervi? heh). So much for feminism.