COLLINS: We're still waiting to see what's in the Senate Democrats health care reform bill. Majority leader Harry Reid says he's waiting to find out how much it will cost before he unveils it. He could get those numbers today. The "Associated Press" quoting Democratic officials reports long-term health care insurance will likely be included. The program would help disabled people and the elderly stay in their homes.
So listen up, seniors. You could soon be paying higher premiums for Medicare. The House is set to vote tomorrow on a bill that would raise fees for doctors treating Medicare patients. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed measure would cost seniors $49 billion in higher Medicare premiums over the next 10 years. The proposed new premiums are designed to offset an upcoming 21 percent cut in fees for doctors treating Medicare patients.
Doctors, women and breast cancer survivors are railing on a new government report recommending most women delay getting mammograms until they're 50. One congresswoman said the guidelines are "clear as mud." That statement coming from Representative Debbie Wasserman- Shultz who is diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s and she is now calling for hearings on this issue.
Congresswoman, we're glad to have you with us today. I want to talk about these potential new guidelines and what you are hoping to do by way of calling for hearings. But first, tell us a little bit about your story.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Just about two years ago I was doing a self exam in the shower and I found a lump in my breast just six weeks after a clean mammogram. I knew it wasn't normal. I went to my doctor and within a couple weeks was diagnosed with very early stage breast cancer. I credit early detection for the fact that I'm still here and that I didn't have to have more significant treatment.
COLLINS: We're very glad for it.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Me, too.
COLLINS: And you know, I have read an awful lot of stories unfortunately that are similar to yours. So when you first heard these recommendations yesterday from this task force, what was your initial reaction?
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Well, as someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 41, I was - I find the recommendations really disturbing. I mean, to suggest that women between 40 and 49 years old not get mammograms routinely, not do the self breast exam, doctors who do not do clinical breast exam leaves women 40 to 49 years old essentially with nothing to make it more likely that they catch their breast cancer early and the argument that the task force is making that we're going you cause anxiety and possibly over treat a certain group of women and only save a few lives.
What does that say to the women whose lives would be saved? It's a very patronizing attitude that these scientists have taken. It's pretty outrageous to suggest that women couldn't handle more information. Information and knowledge is power. It was for me. And that's why I caught my breast cancer early. Because I knew, Heidi, that it was important to know the look and feel of my breasts so I would know what was normal for me so that I would know when something felt different.
COLLINS: Well, good for you. And I t really is a very good example for a lot of women out there. And I think that one of the main issues here at least from what I'm hearing nearly everyone I talked to is, OK, we can all understand and be intelligent enough to say, all right, this is a case by case basis if that's what recommendations are, I will decide for myself with my doctor what I should be doing.
But unfortunately, if the task force like this has as much power and weight as it does, are there not possible implications that could come later about what your insurance and whether or not insurers continue paying for mammograms? What then?
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Absolutely. That's the biggest concern is that insurance companies often use this task force's recommendations for making their coverage decisions and there is an insurance company that already said they will be using those recommendations as the guideline for their coverage decisions and so women 40 to 49 would no longer be able to get routine mammograms paid for by their health insurance.
And as a result because of the confusion, because you have the American Cancer Society and the Komen Foundation adamantly against these recommendations, the task force making the recommendations, the insurance companies making decisions based on those recommendations, you are going to end up causing fewer and fewer women to be able - who are 40 to 49 to be able to get to early screening and mammograms and we know that that will cause more deaths which is the opposite of what we've had happen over the last 20 years since we've had routine screening for women over 40, the death rate has come down.
It's just absolutely irresponsible and we need to hold congressional hearings. I know I'm - I was thrilled to hear that my colleague, Frank Palone (pH), the chairman of the health subcommittee in the House is planning on holding hearings on these recommendations next month.
COLLINS: OK. So I want to talk about that very quickly here. What do you hope the hearings will accomplish? I mean, what will that process be? Is it possible that a task force like this would ever take this recommendation back?
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Well, there's a difference - I think it has to be understood there's a difference between scientific recommendations. This is an independent task force. It's not the government. The policy makers ultimately are the ones who make the decision -
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: About what the government's policy is on routine screenings and mammograms and that's what hearings will do. Hearings will help us reach the appropriate policy conclusion, which I believe is that these recommendations should be set aside, we should follow the guidance of the American Cancer Society and the Komen Foundation, a major cancer organizations and medical experts across the country that say routine screening, routine mammograms and clinical breast exams and breast self exams for women over 40 is what continues to be appropriate.
COLLINS: All right. Well, we certainly appreciate your personal story. And we will definitely continue to follow this here.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Thank you.
COLLINS: Tell my producers in a while who the insurance company is because then we'll have them on, too, and talk about that. Representative Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: You're welcome, Heidi.