The claim: Several television campaign ads for a state Senate race, paid for by groups backing Democratic state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, have attacked GOP Rep. Jan Angel, saying she sponsored legislation to eliminate or reduce access to mammograms and other cancer screenings.
The two candidates are vying to represent the 26th Legislative District, which includes parts of Pierce and Kitsap counties.
The 30-second ads make several claims, but Angel asked Comcast to take the commercials off the air primarily because of the mammogram attack.
One commercial, for example, featured a registered nurse who said, “I was surprised that Rep. Jan Angel … led efforts to eliminate coverage for mammograms.”
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What we found: Mostly false.
While Angel did sign onto a bill that would have repealed state health-care mandates for insurance companies, the ads leave out important context. Namely that the measure would have replaced state mandates with those required under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act does require preventive-care coverage, including mammograms for women over 40. Under the federal law, the services must be covered without cost-sharing or deductible requirements.
The 26th District seat is viewed as a linchpin for control of the state Senate going into the 2014 elections. More than $2.5 million has flowed into the race, fueling TV ads by both sides.
Schlicher is an emergency-room physician from Gig Harbor who was appointed to the Senate after Derek Kilmer was elected to Congress last year. Angel, of Port Orchard, was first elected to the state House in 2008.
The She’s Changed PAC, which backs Schlicher, paid for the commercials attacking Angel. The group bases its mammogram claim on House Bill 1361, which was introduced in 2011.
Angel was not the bill’s sponsor, as claimed in some ads. She was one of 12 co-sponsors who signed onto the legislation, according to the House clerk’s office. The bill in the Democrat-controlled House never got a hearing.
The legislation says, in part, that it’s the “intent of the Legislature to repeal all state mandated benefits and replace them with a requirement that health carriers comply with federal mandates.”
According to state officials, the federal requirements for mammograms went into effect when Obamacare became law in 2010. The law also covers screenings for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.
The state has a more expansive version of the federal mammogram mandate that allows anyone to get one if their provider recommends it. There’s no age restriction. Because of that, Washington follows its own mandate instead of the ACA’s, according to the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC).
Given that the state’s mandate is more expansive, one of the She’s Changed commercials, which says Angel “sponsored legislation to reduce access to mammograms” is partly true, but the ad still incorrectly identifies Angel as the sponsor, and it does not mention the federal mammogram requirements.
A Comcast spokesman said the company is reviewing the situation but has made no decision on the Angel campaign’s request to pull the ads.
Overall, we viewed three commercials and found that all of them incorrectly portrayed Angel as the sponsor of HB 1361, or the leader of an effort to eliminate mammogram coverage.
In addition, two of the commercials incorrectly said the measure would have eliminated mammogram coverage or allowed denial of coverage. Most private insurance plans would have been required to follow the federal mandates at the time the bill was introduced, according to the OIC.
One commercial said the bill would have led to reduced coverage. That could have been the case, if the measure were enacted.
Taken together, we find the ads’ mammogram claims to be mostly false.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or firstname.lastname@example.org