A policy that risks women’s lives

December 3, 2009

A RECENT meeting of the Preventative Services Task Force has come out with a way to lower health care costs that not only contradicts statistical evidence, but also could put the lives of thousands of women at risk.

This 16-person task force has decided that women under 50 no longer need to have routine mammograms that screen for breast cancer, and women over 50 need not have an annual mammogram. This would be wonderful news if it was paired with some factual evidence.

In reality, as a Wall Street Journal article "A Breast Cancer Preview" from November 19 points out, "[T]his calculation doesn't consider that at least 40 percent of the patient years of life saved by screening are among women under 50."

While this recommendation is being made, women are being diagnosed with cancer at younger ages on average than in previous generations. One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Not only is it a common form of cancer, but symptoms in the earlier stages are generally not present. Preventative care is crucial to catching the cancer early and lowering mortality rates.

It seems as though the government is setting the stage to deem certain medical procedures "unnecessary" so as to exclude them from being covered by health insurance policies. This will mean women will either have to pay for mammograms out of pocket or forgo a potentially lifesaving procedure.

This is a small example of how bankrupt the new proposed "health care reform" is. While the Wall Street Journal article certainly pointed out some of these shortcomings, the conclusions are inverted. The problem is not that there is a government-run health care program, but that the insurance company parasites continue to call the shots when it comes to our health.

A government program that was truly nationalized and took the insurance companies out completely--making health care free on delivery--would improve our access to health care significantly. Instead, we are being told to stop accessing care if we are too poor to afford it, and just cross our fingers that we don't get sick.

As a woman going into the health care field, I am completely disgusted by the attacks on health care and on women's rights that are happening side by side. In addition to the shortcomings of the proposed House health care bill is the Stupak Amendment that was tacked on at the last minute and threatens to deny access to safe abortions to millions of women. Just when I thought that the government couldn't disregard women's lives more, now women are being told that their lives are worth less than the cost of a mammogram.

This is the sick reality of the society that we live in, where women are denied the basic right to chose when to carry a fetus to term, as well as when to take measures that could protect their lives. It's time we start fighting for real universal health care, free abortion on demand and a society where these can both be considered human rights that are guaranteed for all.
Natalia Tylim, Amherst, Mass.

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