Crunch Time in the Senate

Crunch Time in the Senate

Will conservative and liberal objections to the Senate healthcare bill’s provisions regarding women’s health doom the legislation?


This article originally appeared on The Media Consortium.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is determined to get a healthcare bill passed in the Senate by Christmas.

This is a momentous time, as John Nichols writes on

Harry Reid has a health-care reform bill, and it is advancing. Indeed, with Saturday night’s 60-39 Senate vote to open a historic debate on the measure, the movement humanize America’s healthcare system — which began almost 70 years ago–is closer to a congressional breakthrough than at any time in its history.

It won’t be a cakewalk, though. Senator Joe Lieberman has famously threatened to torpedo the bill if it includes a public option. This week he tried to rewrite history. “This is a kind of eleventh-hour addition to a debate that’s gone on for decades,” Lieberman told reporters that “Nobody’s ever talked about a public option before. Not even in the presidential campaign last year.” Brian Beutler sets the record straight at Talking Points Memo: in fact, the Obama campaign’s health policy white paper explicitly called for the creation of a public option.

According to Mike Lillis in RH Reality Check, progressive senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is feeling optimistic about the public option’s prospects.

Also in RH Reality Check, reproductive health policy analyst Jessica Arons reports that the merged Senate bill does not call for the much-debated abortion restrictions encoded in the Stupak amendment to the House bill.

In the Progressive, Ruth Conniff takes a closer look at the controversy over the latest mammogram guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force, a commission appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Compared to the old guidelines, the new recommendations suggest that women start getting regular mammograms later and wait longer in between screenings.

Liberals and conservatives are accusing the federal government of cheating women out of preventative care to save money. But as Conniff explains, more mammograms aren’t necessarily better. There’s just not much statistical evidence that screening women in their 40s saves lives. In this age group, regular mammograms are more likely to generate hair-raising false alarms than lifesaving discoveries. Furthermore, mammograms use X-rays, which are inherently carcinogenic. That doesn’t mean that mammograms are dangerous, just that unnecessary exposure should be avoided. Conniff writes that

overscreening and overtreatment are as much of a plague in the U.S. medical system as cost-cutting measures. And looking at breast cancer screening rationally, as the federal panel has done, makes a lot of sense.

Speaking of public health, as I report for Working In These Times, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has published new guidelines to help retailers reduce the risk of crowd stampedes and trampling deaths at Black Friday sales. Have a safe and happy holiday, and good luck standing in line for that $99 Blu-Ray player.

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