Sarah Palin and the Mammogram Debate

Debating by talking trash should only be done when you have no real facts to work with. That’s why the GOOP does it so often. Those of us who have the facts on our side should use them. It is easier to win when you speak the truth and there is an added benefit that you tend to impress your enemies with your sense of fair play.

Thus, I find myself defending The Fool Sarah Palin this week. Not because I like her but because the facts ought to speak for themselves and she is more right in the case of the mammogram study than she is wrong. If you put a million monkeys at computer keyboards, one will write a correct sentence once in a while.

What The Fool Palin said was that there is some death panel mentality associated with the mammogram recommendations. This is entirely correct. The study group found that the number of false positives for women under 50 getting mammograms (470 per 1,000) is so much higher than the number of true positives (14 per 1,000) that its not worth this group of women getting mammograms. This is because the cost of the extra tests, biopsies and such that are necessary to follow up a false positive far outweighs the damage caused by having 14 women per 1,000 having their breast cancer go undetected.

Members of the study panel (called The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) have indicated they wanted to save women the inconvenience and anxiety of the tests. Tell that to the 14 women whose children would be happy to trade a little anxiety for a live Mom cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. This decision makes perfectly good sense to accountants, and certainly saves the insurance industry a bundle. But it might also be a death sentence to those women who have cancer but don’t get the test. Rationing of health care, a death panel scenario? Definitely.

But most of what we hear from the left is that The Fool Palin is an idiot and does not know what she is talking about. Truth is, she has a point here, and we should give her the point she made. Then we should correct the record because a lot of what she says is crap.

First, Palin says the report is an example of what to expect if we pass health care reform.  This is complete crap.  The panel, appointed by the Busch administration, existed before the health care debate began. It would have made a recommendation whether or not there was a health reform proposal in congress.  The  recommendation will give insurance companies a reason not to pay for mammograms for women under 50. That fact is emblematic of the thinking of the insurance industry, which will take any opportunity to reduce services and increase profits so that the CEO can make more money.  Thus, if anything, the report emphasizes why we need health care reform.

Second, the panel was appointed by the Busch Administration. Secretary Sebelius (who never should have let this out of her shop and should take some of the blame) has said its not her report and HHS will not consider it binding on federal policy.

Third, the only chance there is to fix it now is to slip something in the health care bill that requires insurance companies to pay for mammograms annually for women over 40.

One thought on “Sarah Palin and the Mammogram Debate”

  1. Sigh… Every year, my wife has the mammogram, and every year they ‘see something’. Maybe, assuming your stats are correct, we could focus on better testing procedures.

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