Posts Tagged ‘Stupak Ammendment’

A Second Wave Attack on Women’s Health

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

By Susan RosSusan_Rosee
Special to Calbuzz

The official word from the federally funded U.S. Preventive Services Task Force —  that most women don’t need mammograms until the age of 50 — generated passionate responses from women, medical associations and advocacy organizations.

The task force, a panel of physicians, also recommended against teaching women to do breast self- examinations. For good measure, a new recommendation to limit the frequency of Pap Smear Tests further added to the confusion about women’s health care protocols.

The timing could not have been worse for the White House, as the Administration struggles to pass health care reform.

Following closely the House passage of the disastrous anti-abortion Stupak Amendment, the new controversy has outraged many women’s organizations, leaving the uneasy Democratic coalition in Congress shakier than ever.

Why are all these attacks against standard women’s medical health practices coming now? Is it time to trust my paranoia? Is this directly connected to health insurance reform? The debate over saving money in health care suddenly seems to be tilting in favor of cutting services that serve women and save their lives.

Expressions of opposition to the new recommendations were widespread,USREPORT-US-USA-HEALTHCARE as leaders like Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan Komen Foundation, and influential women’s health author Dr. Judith Reichman pushed back at the task force report. Even the Obama administration backed away from the recommendations, leaving Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to state that  “our policies remain the same.” Perhaps most important, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists confirmed their continuing support for the practices of screening mammograms for women from the ages of 40 to 49, as well as self-exams that can detect palpable breast cancer.

In their defense, the task force qualified their findings, saying they should be applied by “individualized decision making to the specific patient or situation” and advising the recommendations do not apply to high-risk women.

Good. That will work for my two 40-something daughters because they have a family history of breast cancer.

My story is no different than the many I have heard and the thousands repeated around the country. I was 47 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been examined by my gynecologist who missed the lump. A few weeks later I found it myself while doing a breast self-exam (BSE). The tumor was very small and I proceeded with the recommended treatments. This year I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a breast cancer survivor.

But two years after the first diagnosis, a Pap Smear revealed another cancer site unrelated to the first. It was found early, and required no additional treatment. The BSE and the Pap Smear are tests I continue to use to this day.

The task force’s recommendations have major implications for insurance coverage. As the Senate begins its debate on health care reform, ongoing analysis of the Stupak Amendment makes it clear that women may well lose all opportunities for abortions covered by insurance, because there will be little incentive for companies to provide these services. With formal recommendations from a federal task force now calling for limits on screening mammograms, why should insurers continue providing coverage for these services either?

breastcancerribbonWomen have long been second class citizens in the history of medicine, ignored or treated differently than men. For many years, research on heart attacks was done on exclusively on men and the results then applied to women. Now scientists are looking at numbers of breast cancer diagnoses and deciding whether to provide women with preventive medical treatment. At what threshold are women worth being treated? We have moved from not being counted at all to being viewed only as statistics.

Scientific research and evaluation are important and the cost of health care needs to be managed, but there must be a way to do both without denying women basic medical services.

Advocates for the task force recommendations argue that they are about evidence- based medicine, and we should not mix science and politics. Perhaps, when gender equity is truly reflected in Congressional representation, we won’t have to fight these battles. Until then, we cannot separate out politics from science.

Susan Rose served 8 years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and writes regularly about women’s issues for Calbuzz.

Items: eMeg Yaks, Choice Threatened, Trees Die

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

meghandsWhile Calbuzz patiently awaits eMeg’s callback, letting us know what time to pick her up for dinner, we’re whiling away the time reading the transcript of her sit-down with old friend Teddy Davis of ABC News.

When Davis asked Her Megness why she was a better choice than Jerry Brown 2.0, we were surprised that her response was basically: “I’m not a career politician.” Weak sauce: Neither was Arnold Schwarzenegger and look how well that turned out. Polls show voters want a change. From what? How, exactly, does yet another outsider from the private sector represent change? Maybe eMeg’s good  pal President Mitt Romney can explain.

We liked this question: “How is the Meg Whitman Republican Party different or similar to a Sarah Palin Republican Party?” which she not very courageously deflected:

“You know, I like to think that I will subscribe very much to the core Republican principles of small government. Making a small number of rules and getting out of the way. Keeping taxes low. Creating an environment for small businesses to grow and thrive.”

Pressed on whether she’d support a constitutional convention, Meg made one thing overwhelming clear: she won’t support anything that even opens the possibility of reducing the two-thirds majority needed either to pass the budget or to raise taxes.

“We can’t have a constitutional convention as a Trojan Horse to undo the two-thirds majority,” she said.

Teddy is more informed than most national reporters about California, having worked for the Gray Davis campaign and as a speech writer in his administration before leaving to go to law school and then on to ABC. Still the Whitman camp’s decision to go with him reflects an ongoing media strategy of focusing on out-of-state and national outlets. Can’t wait to see how she does in the New York Republican primary.

Add NutMeg: Whitman is getting whacked pretty good around the blogosphere for her latest knuckleheaded comment, in response to a Wall Street Journal (more national press!) question about the media:

The aggressive coverage also contrasts with the fawning profiles she received while at eBay, and Ms. Whitman can sound thin of skin about the press. Asked how she plans to improve media relations, she says, ‘Some of these newspapers, as you know better than I, will not be around in the near term.’ Given her high-tech background, Ms. Whitman says her campaign plans to get her message out through the Web better than any previous candidate.

Clearly, bashing newspapers and talking up the web is a tactical move by eMeg to prepare the ground for an exclusive interview with Calbuzz. Hey, is that the phone?

taliban.jpgCan the Taliban be far behind? As Susan Rose reported in this space last week, the House vote approving a health care bill that includes anti-abortion language poses a major potential threat to women’s access to reproductive health services which goes far beyond the ranks of those enrolled in a  “public option” insurance program.

Now, as first posted by Talking Points Memo David Dayen at firedoglake, a new study by the George Washington University School of Public Health has concluded that the anti-abortion amendment could eventually eliminate abortion as an elective procedure in the country altogether.

We conclude that the treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange…

(The Stupak Amendment) can be expected to move the industry away from current norms of coverage for medically indicated abortions. In combination with the Hyde Amendment, Stupak/Pitts will impose a coverage exclusion for medically indicated abortions on such a widespread basis that the health benefit services industry can be expected to recalibrate product design downward across the board in order to accommodate the exclusion in selected markets.

You can read the full study here.


As the state sinks slowly in the West: If you can read only one story about the latest horror show study of California’s budget sinkhole – and why would you want to read more? – check out Greg Lucas’s take on the new Legislative Analyst report over at California’s Capitol:

The first term of California’s next governor will be a fiscal nightmare with a cumulative budget shortfall over four years of nearly $83 billion, according to the fiscal forecast released November 18 by the Legislative Analyst.

Lucas quotes Leg analyst Mac Taylor thusly:

The scale of the deficits is so vast that we know of no way that the Legislature, the governor and voters can avoid making additional, very difficult choices about state priorities,” the report says. “In the coming years, major state spending programs will have to be significantly reduced. Policymakers will also need to add revenues to the mix (emph. ours).

Waste, fraud and abuse, indeed.

Press Clips: Best line of the week honors to NYT’s Gail Collins, who riffed  on the  news about revised medical conventional wisdom about mammograms with a reminder of the weird weltanschung of newspaper columnists:

I had breast cancer back in 2000, and I am trying to come up with a way that I can use that experience to shed some light on these new findings. I have never believed that everything happens for a reason. But I do feel very strongly that everything happens so that it can be turned into a column.

More felicitous phrasing turned up in a smack that the Chron’s editorial page delivered to the nose of the puppy-eyed Gavin Newsom, opining enough already with his “illusion of delusion” following his withdrawal from the governor’s race and instructing him to grow up and start acting like a mayor instead of a whiny adolescent engaged in a “sulkathon.”

GimmeRewriteInquiring minds want to know how editors at the B- let this sloppy wet kiss to the nether cheeks of Sacramento super-consultant firm California Strategies get into the paper…Memo to copy desk: next time you decide to use the words “No surprise” in a headline over an item about a “completely predictable” report, save yourself some time and just make it: “Don’t read this.”

Deep Throat call home: Love the sourcing on this item, about Schwarzmuscle chief of staff Susan Kennedy getting ready to jump ship, by the otherwise reliable Josh Richman of the Coco Times, who sets things up with a blind quote:

“I was told by a good source – a very senior person from inside the horseshoe – six, seven weeks ago that once she got water done, she’d go to Mercury to make some money off the campaign,” one source said, asking not to be identified.”

For those keeping score at home, make that one 6-4-3.

Clint’s crystal ball: Carly Fiorina’s camp didn’t waste any time eblasting around an intriguing piece by Clint Reilly over at California Progress Report,  in which he makes the case that iCarly is going to be a lot tougher Senate candidate than the political class expects. Dismissing out of the hand the GOP primary challenge of Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, Reilly notes Willie Brown’s Boxer-is-the-luckiest-politician-in-California meme and opines that Hurricane Carly will give Babs all she can handle in a “bare knuckles…donnybrook.”

“Political handicappers have underestimated Fiorina’s chances,” the Great Man sez.

chronbldg-246x300-whtElegy for the Chron: We’re a little late getting to this one, but “Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper” by Richard Rodriguez in the November issue of Harper’s is by far the smartest and most elegantly written piece we’ve read on the decline of ink-on-trees journalism

At a time when the Hearst-owned Chronicle is reduced to hawking itself on the basis of its shiny newsprint, Rodriguez traces the rich and romantic history of the Chronicle from its Civil War start by the de Young brothers, who arrived from St. Louis in San Francisco and promptly “invented themselves as descendants of French aristocracy.”

From its inception, the San Francisco Chronicle borrowed a tone of merriment and swagger from the city it daily invented – on one occasion with fatal consequences: in 1879 the Chronicle ran an expose of the Rev. Isaac Smith Kalloch, a recent arrival to the city (“driven forth from Boston like an Unclean Leper”) who had put himself up as a candidate for mayor.

The Chronicle recounted Kalloch’s trial for adultery in Massachusetts (“his escapade with one of the Tremont Temple choristers”). Kalloch responded by denouncing the “bawdy house breeding” of the de Young boys, implying that Charles and Michael’s mother kept a whorehouse in St. Louis. Charles rose immediately to his mother’s defense; he shot Kalloch, who recovered and won City Hall. De Young never served jail time. A year later, in 1800, Kalloch’s son shot and killed Charles de Young in the offices of the Chronicle.

‘Hatred of de Young is the first and best test of a gentleman,’ Ambrose Bierce later remarked of Michael, the surviving brother. However just or unjust Bierce’s estimation, the de Young brothers lived and died according to this notion of a newspaper’s purpose – that it should entertain and incite the population.

Rodriguez weaves the story of the paper deeply into the texture of the history of the city (as well as his own biography as a Sacramentan seeking “a connection with a gray maritime city at odds with the postwar California suburbs”). Starting with the refreshing premise that the collapse of newspapers is not merely the result of disruptive technologies, he offers an extended, not-a-wasted word reflection on the loss of civic community in an age of disintermediation and virtual atomized niche markets.

When a newspaper dies in America, it is not simply that a commercial enterprise has failed; a sense of place has failed. If the San Francisco Chronicle is near death – and why else would the editors celebrate its 144th anniversary? And why else would the editors devote a week to feature articles on fog? – it is because San Francisco’s sense of itself as a city is perishing.

Great stuff. There’s a pay wall in front of the piece, but it’s worth figuring a way to get around it, or even buying a ticket for admission.


Finally: While Calbuzz was buzy slapping around the Jerry Brown uncampaign operation for squandering Crusty’s dominant position in the governor’s race, Keith Esparros at NBC Bay Area had an entirely different take: That Jerry is getting great publicity as the peoples’ crime fighter while keeping his ass out of the fire fight.

That’d be fine if the strategy also allowed Brown to maintain his lead in the polls and buzz about him which — by the way — he’s going to need to keep independents interested enough to vote in a no-action Democratic primary, or risk losing them in November.