WOMEN’S HEALTH: House Approves Cancer Bill
The House yesterday passed legislation by voice vote that would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income, uninsured women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through a federal screening program -- but only after supporters "threatened" GOP leaders over a human papillomavirus provision proposed by Rep. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.), CongressDaily/A.M. reports. "It's a cruel hoax to say to a woman, 'Go get screened, but if you have cancer, you're on your own," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), a breast cancer patient, added, "There's nothing worse than being diagnosed with breast cancer and being told, 'Sorry, there's nothing we can do to help'" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 10/13). Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chief sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, which passed on Oct. 4, also praised the House vote. "This legislation is critical to the fight against breast and cervical cancer," he said, adding, "It reaches out to the thousands of women who fall through the cracks of the current system" (Grassley release, 10/12). House leaders planned to vote on a different version of the bill, which included language sponsored by Coburn that would have ordered a study on whether condoms should have warning labels about their ineffectiveness against HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer. Although supporters of the bill did not oppose Coburn's provision, they feared that returning the legislation to the Senate might have killed the measure with Congress nearing adjournment. "If they pass this bill with [Coburn's] language, the breast cancer community will view this as a hostile act and one that will kill the bill," Jennifer Katz of the National Breast Cancer Coalition said (Reuters Health, 10/12). While Coburn expressed disappointment in the decision to drop his amendment from the bill, he called the move "too familiar." He said, "I got rolled. Just because you fear something might not get done, you fail to do what you know is right." During the brief floor debate on the measure, several female House members said they would attach Coburn's amendment to another bill before the session ends. "I understand what [Coburn] is trying to do, but if you amend it on this bill, the Senate will not take it up," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said. President Clinton has promised to sign the legislation (CongressDaily/A.M., 10/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.