Carly Fiorina

Weekly Republican Address - Dec. 5, 2009

Carly Fiorina
December 05, 2009
Weekly Republican Address
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Hello. This is Carly Fiorina. And today I’d like to speak to you as one of the more than two and a half million women in America who have been diagnosed with breast cancer — and beaten it.

Like everyone else who’s diagnosed with cancer, I never thought it would happen to me. I was fit, healthy, and active. I even got regular check-ups. But earlier this year, just two weeks after a clear mammogram, I discovered a lump through a self-exam.

Soon after that came the diagnosis, the surgery, the long and difficult treatment regimen, and the painful experience of wondering whether I would make it, whether I’d pull through.

I’m fortunate to live near one of the greatest cancer centers in the world. I’m fortunate to have the incredible love and support of family and friends.

And, my diagnosis gave me time to think about my future — because one of the things that happens when you have to face your fears, including the fear of dying, is that you can face your future with renewed hope and enthusiasm.

My doctors tell me I have won my battle with cancer. And I realize that this makes me one of the lucky ones. Last year alone, more than 40,000 Americans died from breast cancer. Aside from lung cancer, breast cancer is the most fatal form of cancer for American women. Nearly 200,000 new cases were reported last year alone.

That’s why a recent recommendation on mammograms by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-run panel of health care professionals that makes recommendations on prevention, struck such a nerve.

The task force did not include an oncologist or a radiologist; in other words, cancer experts did not develop this recommendation. They said that most women under 50 don’t need regular mammograms and that women over 50 should only get them every other year. And yet we all know that the chances of surviving cancer are greater the earlier it’s detected. If I’d followed this new recommendation and waited another two years, I’m not sure I’d be alive today.

What’s more this task force was explicitly asked to focus on costs, not just prevention. As it turned out, costs were a significant factor in this recommendation. Will a bureaucrat determine that my life isn't worth saving?

All this takes on even greater urgency in the midst of the ongoing health care debate in Washington. We wonder if we are heading down a path where the federal government will at first suggest and then mandate new standards for prevention and treatment. Do we really want government bureaucrats rather than doctors dictating how we prevent and treat something like breast cancer?

The response we’ve gotten to these questions has been less than encouraging. In the face of a national outcry over the recent task force recommendations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services said the Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t set federal policy. The real question, though, is whether bodies like this would set policy under the $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page plan that’s now making its way through Congress?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t encouraging either. The health care bill now being debated in the Senate explicitly empowers this very task force to influence future coverage and preventive care. Section 4105, for example, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deny payment for prevention services the task force recommends against.

Another section requires every health plan in America to cover task force recommended preventive services. In fact, there are more than a dozen examples in the bill where this task force is empowered to influence care.

There is a reason American women with breast cancer have a higher survival rate than women in countries with government-run health care. Unlike those countries, our government doesn’t dictate what prevention and treatments women can get.

While some defend the idea of a government task force, my experience with cancer tells me it’s wrong. Cutting down on mammograms might save the government some money that it will then spend on something else. But it won’t save lives. And isn’t that what health care reform was supposed to be all about?

This is just one in many examples of serious problems with this healthcare reform legislation. Rather than remaking the entire national healthcare system at the cost of higher taxes and exploding deficits, we should build on what works, such as expanding access to integrated care and to community clinics that will give those most in need appropriate care at a reasonable price.

Congress should reform medical malpractice to match what we have in California where frivolous lawsuits are a thing of the past. We should permit consumers to purchase health insurance from any company in the country, expanding consumer choice and driving down cost and unnecessary mandates.

People want to know that their care will stay where it belongs: in the hands of doctors and patients. Unfortunately, the path Congress is on in this debate is not giving us the confidence that it will. Thank you.

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