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Caregiving, Health Care And Striking A Balance

Former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin holds her son as she arrives for a book signing event for her new book, Going Rogue, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

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Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Yes, I am a slacker.

I did not get my weekly commentary on the air today. A sick child at home during my writing time presented me with a choice: stay up the REST of the night — or punt. Thankfully, our ace editor Luis Clemens and producer Alicia Montgomery had a plan to fill that space, and you know I am grateful. But this really put me in the mood for the Moms conversation that we are planning for tomorrow's program; it's about the Sarah Palin memoir, Going Rogue.

I have always wondered how political moms like Sarah Palin DO it all. And I have never been close enough to one to ask such personal questions, like what DO you do when your baby has a fever? I know for me, as competent and loving as my husband is and as their babysitter is, when my kids are sick, I'm the one they want, and I want to be there with them. It just kills me to send them to the doctor without me. That might sound ridiculous because lots of people have jobs where they are hard to replace on short notice — teachers, police officers, etc. You know what I'm saying?

But if you're a governor, I want to know: if you have a press conference planned, when you have a deadline for the state budget, and your child gets sick, what do you do?

Two of our regular moms — Jolene Ivey (a Democrat) and Leslie Morgan Steiner (an Independent, I think) — are with us along with Mary Kate Cary (a Republican and former speech writer) all read "Going Rogue" this weekend and are with us to tell us what they think.

You know what else I was planning to write about? Mammograms. I am so relieved to learn that the Senate is all for them.

Over the weekend, as the Senate continued its work on the health care overhaul bill, they passed an amendment that would guarantee access to mammograms for women in their 40s, and prevent insurance companies from charging co-payments for them and other preventive tests for women. This was a response, of course, to a controversial recent recommendation by a government advisory group that suggested younger women could stand to skip the tests entirely, and older women would do okay having them every other year.

As you probably know, this provoked a huge firestorm. Many members of Congress have either had breast cancer or are close to someone who has, so it isn't surprising the Senate went out of its way to respond quickly.

Senate Democrats also beat back an attempt by Senate Republicans to stop $500 billion in cuts for Medicare — the government health program for people 65 and older — that authors of the bill say are needed to pay for extended health benefits for the millions of people who don't have them now. This, of course, prompted cries about rationing, a fear that has been invoked throughout the debate. Critics of the overhaul plan say that extending health insurance to the many will mean cutting services to those who already have it.

Here's what I'm not getting: isn't what we're doing rationing health care now?

When 46 million people lack health insurance, and the vast majority of government health care dollars are spent on the final years of life, what else can we call it but rationing? It's a policy judgment rooted in viciously contested legislation that sets up a guarantee ongoing health benefits for seniors, and after that, for children. But for working-age adults, and older children who aren't in school, they're on their own for the most part.

So if rationing means we are apportioning dollars according to a framework that offers some people acess to benefits and restricts others ... what's the difference?