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The Mikulski Amendment and Cost Control

4:24 PM, Dec 3, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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By a 61 to 39 vote, the Senate approved Barbara Mikulski's amendment to require health insurers to provide free mammograms and other preventive screenings for women. The cost amounts to around $1 billion over the next decade.

Among the No votes was Wisconsin's noted liberal Russ Feingold. Why did he vote no? "The first amendment voted on would add almost a billion dollars to our budget deficits over the next 10 years," he said in a statement. "We should make sure health plans cover women's preventive care and screenings, but we should also find a way to pay for it, rather than adding that cost to the already mountainous public debt."

The vote to approve the Mikulski amendment "happened directly after the release of evidence showing that many mammograms do not pass a comparative effectiveness test," notes Tyler Cowen. "Once the test became a public issue at all ... well, now you see what happens. CBO, take note."

In other words, Congress has an easy time approving new, "free" benefits. But Congress has also repeatedly demonstrated that it has little will to restrict or limit said benefits. Simply put, costs will rise.

Megan McArdle has more here.