Sunday, July 06, 2008

Will A President Obama Be Dismissive Of Mental Health Care?

I don't know if Barack Obama's statements made during an interview for the Christian magazine, Relevant, about reducing the scope of health exceptions for late-term abortions so that mental health is not viewed as a health issue are efforts to pander to the religious right or if they reflect his true beliefs. Either way his comments undermine my confidence that on key issues related to women and health care that he will be any better than John McCain.

In an interview this week with "Relevant," a Christian magazine, Obama said prohibitions on late-term abortions must contain "a strict, well defined exception for the health of the mother."

Obama then added: "Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying the child to term."

By dismissing mental health as a true health issue when it comes to abortion, Obama seeks to elevate himself above medical professionals who have seen the patient in question and who have the training to make a diagnosis. He is also supporting the general idea that mental health is in no way a health issue.

Notice that his proposed restrictions in fact go beyond eliminating mental distress as a health issue and also eliminate all pre-existing medical conditions. Diabetes and heart conditions which existed before the pregnancy become invalid health issues because they did not arise in pregnancy.

His framing in the last quoted sentence make it clear that only the child's live birth matters. If carrying a child to term will not kill the child but will kill the mother, that isn't covered by Obama's description of a well-defined health exception.

If the doctor identifies a health issue which should apply by using common sense (the duh factor) but isn't covered by whatever "strict, well defined exception" Obama or others would create then too bad even if that means both mother and child die. A doctor who chooses to save the mother's life over following the letter of the law will risk be treated by the government as a murderer.

This is very dangerous -- and not just on issues of abortion. This approach is dangerous even to pro-lifers because it supports the actions of insurance companies who deny medical coverage because a procedure or treatment can be linked to the mental state of the patient or is a pre-existing condition.

Mental health care such as counseling is the obvious topic many people think about, but many medical procedures like reconstructive surgery could be described as not needed -- and therefore not covered --because failing to have that surgery won't kill the patient.

But the denied medical procedures can also include life-saving procedures which are described by insurers as unproven. Many insurers are refusing to pay for certain cancer treatments even though doing so may result in the patient's death. The rationale seems to be that until an expensive procedure has been proven that it can be viewed as something which only provides a mental health benefit because the patient thinks he or she might beat a deadly disease with the desired treatment.

Several years ago I had a large mole removed even though it was not cancerous and might never have become cancerous. That procedure was covered by my health insurance coverage. The mole would get irritated but that effect could easily have been described as causing me only mental distress. The common inflammation of that mole didn't endanger my life. By Obama's standard my insurance company should have had the right to overrule my doctor's assessment that mole removal surgery was warranted.

Physical health issues such as cardio health screenings could be described as related to mental health -- and therefore not covered -- because these screenings may relieve mental anxiety of a patient who has a family history of heart disease.

The ugly truth is that many of those who would cheer Obama's statement stop caring about the health of a patient when that patient is pregnant and only care about the health of the fetus. This is positioned by many people as the more compassionate view, but I see no genuine compassion in this view. The pregnant become nothing more than disposable containers with no right to self-determination.

This troubling statement unfortunately is no surprise to me since during the primary Obama played to the sexists who vilified Hillary Clinton and/or the idea of any woman as US president.

Hat tip: Reclusive Leftist

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:41 AM   0 comments links to this post


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