GOP Sen. Roberts: I ‘deeply regret’ quip about insurance coverage for mammograms

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., speaks at Secretary of Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue’s confirmation hearing. (Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., expressed remorse Thursday for making a sarcastic comment implying that coverage for mammograms shouldn’t be a requirement for the GOP’s insurance plan.

“I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women’s health & I never intended to indicate otherwise,” he tweeted.

With Republican leadership struggling to garner the necessary votes to pass their Affordable Care Act replacement legislation, one proposed change to the bill was removing the essential health benefits requirement. Every insurance plan purchased in the Obamacare marketplace is required to cover services in 10 key categories. One of those categories is preventive care, and for women over 40, that includes mammograms.

When Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo asked Roberts if he supported ditching the essential health benefits requirement, he reportedly replied, “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms.”

Just over an hour later, Roberts offered a mea culpa via his Twitter account.

A common line of argument for Republicans is that Obamacare requires insurers to cover services that not all people need. However, it is possible for men to develop breast cancer.

The Republicans’ Obamacare alternative, the American Health Care Act, was originally scheduled to be put to a vote Thursday evening. By Thursday afternoon, however, leadership delayed the vote in order to buy time and rally more votes. President Trump has strongly endorsed the bill and has pressed GOP lawmakers to follow party leadership and vote yes.