Independent Women’s Forum’s vile attack

INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S FORUM’S VILE ATTACK…. I’d heard about the ad, but I hadn’t actually seen it, on my own television, until this week.

The spot is from something called the Independent Women’s Forum, and it features a woman, speaking over soft piano music, who insists that American women will not get proper treatment for breast cancer if health care reform becomes a reality. The argument is premised on a variety of bogus assumptions, including the notion that Democratic policymakers intend to base reform on a British NHS system (which, for the umpteenth time, isn’t even remotely true).

There have been some pretty thorough takedowns of the IWF ad, but Harold Pollack’s recent item was especially good, noting, among other things, that this right-wing attack is backwards.

This advertisement is especially misplaced in light of many studies documenting poor outcomes among uninsured American women with breast cancer. It’s been known for many years that uninsured breast cancer patients are diagnosed later, require more invasive and costly treatment, and die sooner than their insured counterparts. Lack of health insurance is a major risk factor for delayed mammography, and for delayed response to abnormal mammography that requires diagnostic resolution.

Not every difference in medical outcomes would be eliminated through insurance coverage. Confounders such as race, poverty and low education matter, too. Yet studies which account for these factors still find large differences in medical outcomes associated with lack of health coverage.

To pick one study among many, a strong recent analysis by Cathy Bradley and colleagues examined treatment outcomes at Virginia’s Massey Cancer Center. These authors found that uninsured women were far more likely to present with late-stage cancers and large tumors that required aggressive treatment, were less likely to complete chemotherapy, and — contra Tracy Walsh — were many times more likely than others to wait 90 days or more between their initial diagnosis and their breast cancer surgery.

Then there is the other elephant in the room. Women in other industrial democracies do not go bankrupt because they have breast cancer. That’s an everyday occurrence across America — among both insured and uninsured citizens. Democratic health reform bills will not create “nationalized healthcare” or a single-payer system. The current bills are surely imperfect. They would provide every woman the opportunity to buy affordable and decent insurance that covers diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

Time‘s Joe Klein called the IWF’s argument “lower than dirt” and part of a “disgraceful scam.”

Under the circumstances, that’s an entirely reasonable critique of a vile campaign.