KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Bill Moves Forward, Amendment Ensures Coverage For Women’s Preventive Care

Los Angeles Times: "After days of delay, Senate Democrats pushed ahead Thursday with their drive to pass a healthcare bill by Christmas, approving the first amendment to their giant bill: a measure to expand women's access to preventive services such as mammograms." The language, proposed by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), passed by a 61-39 vote. It would "authorize the federal government to require insurers to cover women's preventive care and screenings without co-payments. The amendment is expected to cost about $940 million over 10 years. It had the backing of numerous groups representing patients, doctors and women"  (Levey, 12/4).

The New York Times noted that three Republicans joined "56 Democrats and the two independents in favor. The Republican senators voting in favor were the two women from Maine, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, and David Vitter of Louisiana. Among Democratic senators, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Ben Nelson of Nebraska opposed the proposal. (Herszenhorn and Pear, 12/3).

McClatchy:  The Senate-approved measure "would make it easier for women to get medical screenings aimed at detecting a variety of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes."  The debate surrounding this amendment "was an oasis of comity in the four-day-old health care debate" (Lightman, 12/3).

CNN: "The proposal to ensure access to mammograms was prompted by the recent uproar over a controversial government task force recommendation that some women should not receive routine mammograms to detect breast cancer. Democrats wanted to assure women that health care reform wouldn't lead to a rationing of such care; Republicans wanted to make the point that it would" (Barrett, 12/3).

Kaiser Health News: "in essence, the amendment says 'disregard the current findings of this preventative services task force' .... And that women must have access to these services and they wouldn't have to pay out of pocket for them" (Carey, 12/3).

Reuters: "On a 59-41 vote, the Senate rejected a related Republican amendment on screenings that would have ensured the task force recommendations could be ignored. Democrats said it was 'too tepid' and would not remove cost barriers to the services" (Whitesides, 12/3).

The Associated Press/CBS News: "Mikulski said her amendment would guarantee that decisions are left to women and their doctors, not placed in the hands of government bureaucrats or medical statisticians. She accepted a modification to her amendment by Vitter that would specifically prevent the controversial recommendations on mammograms from restricting coverage of the test" (12/3).

The Baltimore Sun: "Mikulski said afterward that she would press to have her amendment included in a final health care compromise, which would be crafted some time early next year if the Senate approves the sweeping legislation it took up this week. The House version does not include a similar provision" (West, 12/4).


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