Weekly Pulse: Crunch Time in the Senate


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is determined to get a health care bill passed in the Senate by Christmas.

This is a momentous time, as John Nichols writes in The Nation:

…Harry Reid has a health-care reform bill, and it is
advancing. Indeed, with Saturday night’s 60-39 Senate vote to open a
historic debate on the measure, the movement humanize America’s
healthcare system — which began almost 70 years ago — is closer to a
congressional breakthrough than at any time in its history.

It won’t be a cakewalk, though. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has
famously threatened to torpedo the bill if it includes a public option.
This week he tried to rewrite history. “This is a kind of 11th hour
addition to a debate that’s gone on for decades,” Lieberman told
reporters that “Nobody’s ever talked about a public option before. Not
even in the presidential campaign last year.” Brian Beutler sets the record straight
at Talking Points Memo: In fact the Obama campaign’s health policy
white paper explicitly called for the creation of a public option.

According to Mike Lillis in RH Reality Check, progressive senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is feeling optimistic about the public option’s prospects.

Also in RH Reality Check, reproductive health policy analyst Jessica Arons reports that the merged Senate bill does not call for the much-debated abortion restrictions encoded in the Stupak amendment to the House bill.

In the Progressive, Ruth Conniff takes a closer look at the controversy
over the latest mammogram guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services
Task Force, a commission appointed by the Department of Health and
Human Services. Compared to the old guidelines, the new recommendations
suggest that women start getting regular mammograms later and wait
longer in between screenings.

Liberals and conservatives are accusing the federal government of
cheating women out of preventative care to save money. But as Conniff
explains, more mammograms aren’t necessarily better. There’s just not
much statistical evidence that screening women in their forties saves
lives. In this age group, regular mammograms are more likely to
generate hair-raising false alarms than lifesaving discoveries.
Furthermore, mammograms use x-rays, which are inherently carcinogenic.
That doesn’t mean that mammograms are dangerous, just that unnecessary
exposure should be avoided. Conniff writes:

…[O]verscreening and overtreatment are as much of a
plague in the U.S. medical system as cost-cutting measures. And looking
at breast cancer screening rationally, as the federal panel has done,
makes a lot of sense.

Speaking of public health, as I report for Working In These Times,
the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has published new
guidelines to help retailers reduce the risk of crowd stampedes and
trampling deaths at Black Friday sales. Have a safe and happy holiday and good luck standing in line for that $99 Blu-Ray player.

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