Reporter's Note: President Obama is still abroad, but as is so often the case, things a heating up at home. Never one to run from a fire, I’ll toss another letter to the White House into the blaze.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
Well, as sure as if you’d left an iron on when you took off for your travels, all heck has broken loose here. And the issue is women’s health. In case you have not picked up a newspaper from back home, a task force operating under the umbrella of the Health and Human Services Department has recommended what adds up to a significant scaling back of mammograms to detect breast cancer in the younger portion of middle-aged women.
They’ve offered all sorts of explanations about how the tests cause anxiety, and often have to be redone, and yadda, yadda, yadda. What they have not explained well enough, however, is why they didn’t do a better job consulting with the nation’s top cancer prevention groups before throwing this bombshell. Nor have they effectively refuted the claims of critics (some with pretty impressive diplomas on their walls) who say this is simply putting cost and convenience above the value of lives.
Secretary Sebelius has gone into damage control, clearly trying to distance your team from the whole mess and encouraging women of all ages to continue getting mammograms. But some of the damage may already be done. First, because the whole episode seemed shadowed by a cloud of incompetence, and frankly after the swine flu vaccine problems you (let alone Sebelius!) don’t need it.
Second, it makes it look like the government does not take women’s health seriously enough. And remember, many women are already screaming over that deal that was struck in the House to allow anti-abortion rights language into the health care bill.
And third, no matter what the folks connected with the panel say now, they have tossed a big, fat softball right over the plate by appearing to place cost savings ahead of the health of Americans. Seriously, is that what you needed as this health care reform measure steams toward the station?
Whether these impressions are fair or accurate or not may not actually matter with voters; the sheer politics of this is a keg of dynamite in a room full of sparklers. Need I remind you, that female voters are the cornerstone of Democratic power these days?
Call if you want an up to the minute update from the battlefront; uh, but if my wife answers, you might want to claim you’ve dialed a wrong number. I’m just saying.
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