Carrie Lukas
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) is a breast cancer survivor who is passionate about ensuring that women have health care options. After undergoing treatment in 2008, she worked to promote screening efforts to insure that women are diagnosed early to increase their chance of survival. When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (a government panel charged with reviewing evidence and making recommendations for preventive services) recently changed their recommendations about best practices for screening women for breast cancer, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz expressed concern.

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She's a cheerleader for current efforts in Congress to transform the health care system, which she argues will "provide greater access to preventative care." She recoiled when opponents of the health care bills used the new recommendations that scaled back the use of mammograms to highlight the potential for government rationing, and accused Republicans of "playing politics with breast cancer."

Perhaps breast cancer should be "above politics." But it isn't beyond policy. Clearly, access to preventative services will be affected by major changes to the health care system. Indeed, Wasserman-Schultz sells proposed legislation by claiming it will give more women access to screening (therefore using breast cancer to advance her own policy agenda). And while she insists that recommendations made by the panels would just be "recommendations" and wouldn't affect access to services, the legislative text suggests otherwise.

Section 2713 (on page 17) of the Senate bill reads "A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance shall provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirement for evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of 'A' or 'B' in the current recommendations of the United States Preventative Services Task Force." In other words, services that receive grades of "C" or below (as did mammograms for women under age fifty) would not have to be covered.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos reports that when confronted with this specific legislative language, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz said that the "language needs to come out of the bill" and insisted that the task force recommendation "won't be controlling." http://blogs.abcnews.com/george/2009/11/breast-cancer-controversy-will-reform-impose-guidelines.html


Carrie Lukas

Carrie Lukas is the Managing Director at the Independent Women’s Voice and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.