( – promoted by OKWatchdog)
Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, recently achieved a rare feat – he simultaneously (although indirectly) took on federal health care reform and health insurance companies with the same amendment.
Prior to session, Lamons introduced legislation to require insurance companies to continue to cover mammograms (mammography coverage was enacted in 1988) regardless of what federal advisory panels determine. This was in response to the ill-timed report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that recommended that women younger than 50 don’t need routine mammograms, a change from current practices.
When the task force issued its guidelines last fall, health care reform opponents seized on them as an example of the care rationing that reform would bring. The task force was caught flat-footed by the intense public outcry.
Lamons’ initial legislation didn’t get very far. The retired Tulsa police officer waited patiently and tried last month to amend a bill to declare that insurance policies can’t be “subject to modification by insurers based upon studies or recommendations of medical research entities without specific approval of the Legislature.”
This was a direct result of the task force guidelines.
The amendment failed on the House floor. The surprising thing is that Lamons’ Republican colleagues didn’t embrace it. After all, the GOP has drawn a line in the sand regarding coverage mandates, and clearly is no fan of health care reform. Since no one is proposing eliminating mammography (at least publicly), this would appear to have been a no-brainer.
For his part, Lamons voted for a proposed opt-out of health care reform but later changed his vote to “no” when language was added in conference committee to allow the Senate president pro tem and House speaker to sue the federal government.
Apart from raising the very important question of whether health care costs may ever truly brought under control without rationing – whether from insurance companies, the government, rising co-pays/premiums or insufficient availability of physicians/hospitals – Lamons also clearly advocated for a coverage mandate.
“I believe any woman who has reason to think she may have breast cancer should be able to get a mammogram if her doctor orders one,” said Lamons, who serves on the Susan G. Komen board. The organization is dedicated to education and research about breast cancer.
In 1988, 42.9 percent of Oklahoma women over age 40 surveyed by the state Health Department reported having had a mammogram during the previous two years. By 2006 the percentage was 67.7. Although the improvement is due to a number of factors, insurance coverage obviously played a role and deserves credit.
State law requires insurance coverage of up to $115 for mammograms for women 35 and older.
Lamons’ actions show that politics and policy aren’t binary, although we are often led to believe that choices and opinions must be either-or. That’s something to keep in mind, especially when talking about health care.