“We Want To See Them Live A Healthy Life”

June 4, 2015

[Opinion column written by Eron Hill]

We all have a mother, a sister, an aunty, a god-ma, girlfriend, or wife in our life that we love dearly. Undoubtedly, we want to see them live a full, healthy and prosperous life.

Think about them as you read.

Bermudians of all ages, race, and social classes are concerned by the governments proposed legislative amendments in the “Health Insurance [Miscellaneous] Amendment Act 2015” where the government seek to increase the age for which women who are covered under the standard healthcare insurance can receive a mammogram.

The status quo is that women starting at the age of 40 are allowed annual mammograms. This is consistent with the recommendations and guidelines of the American College of Radiology. The government has now proposed legislation to raise the age for regular mammograms to age 50 unless there is a pre-existing family history of risk.

So essentially, by their proposed amendments the government has indicated that if a woman is under the age of 50 they will only be covered by standard healthcare for a mammogram every two years.

First, allow me to say that I am fully cognizant of the fact that mammograms comprise of 30% of all diagnostic imaging cost in Bermuda. I also understand that the government is attempting to reduce cost whilst still providing high quality healthcare. However, I don’t believe it appropriate to place a cost restriction or legislative barriers on such pivotal healthcare issues that ultimately can result in ‘life or death’ predicaments.

Some have argued that the legislative amendments won’t prevent women from getting mammograms because they can simply consult and doctor and ask for a referral. Which gives me pause to question the effectiveness and purpose of the legislation? If it’s as easy as going to a physician and demanding a referral, which every woman can and I anticipate will do, then will the legislation truly be effective?

Or is it a superfluous bill to give the perception that cost cutting measures are in place. The answer to that will vary amongst us all, but it’s something I humbly believe all Bermudians are entitled to deduce our own conclusion about.

Many may be unaware of the precise schematics of how a mammogram works. Albeit far from an area that I have any expertise in my research supports the notion that a mammogram is not a simple process that identifies “Yes you have cancer” or “No, you don’t have cancer”.

The doctor looks for calcifications, which are ‘tiny mineral deposits within the breast tissue. They look like small white spots on a mammogram. They may or may not be caused by cancer. There are 2 types of calcifications, micro and macro calcifications.’

It’s significantly important to have regular mammograms but having consistent mammograms allows a doctor to compare previous results; as well as identify and monitor possible minor changes that can have major effects if left undetected and unaddressed.

So now imagine your mother, sister, or significant other missing the opportunity of early detection which can allow for life saving treatment because legislation said they can only receive regular mammograms at the age of 50.

Indeed, it’s a devastating thought for us all.

I humbly believe that no Bermudian woman should be denied the opportunity to if nothing else, have peace of mind that they are in good health. I fully support the group “Bras For A Cause”; a group that has ‘called for women from all parts of the island to convene on Cabinet Grounds tomorrow at 6pm to hand their bras in support of early detection saving lives.’ I will be there, and invite all to come out to support. I look forward to seeing a positive turnout.

In all the circumstances, I ask that the government reconsider its position regarding the Health Insurance [Miscellaneous] Amendment Act 2015, and should this proposed legislation go forward to debate and ultimately vote, I humbly request that members on both sides of the house reflect seriously the effects of such legislation.

-Eron Hill

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Comments (15)

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  1. Life says:

    Yes Mr. Hill. Well said young man. I really do hope this government reconsiders it’s position.

  2. Beanie says:

    Truth!! Well articulated Mr. Hill.

  3. Early Detection says:

    Yes exactly Mr. Hill. Early detection is essential to proper care

  4. Sarah says:

    Well articulated piece. I will be there tonight!

  5. Nate says:

    “First, allow me to say that I am fully cognizant of the fact that mammograms comprise of 30% of all diagnostic imaging cost in Bermuda. I also understand that the government is attempting to reduce cost whilst still providing high quality healthcare.”

    Hill, the balance you’ve managed to keep in this article is much appreciated and speaks to the level of tact you have. Keep up the good work. I hope this government reconsiders it’s position.

    • Question: Why do many believe everything U.S.A. medical society present to us as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” really is the truth?
      Bermuda’s two oncologists support the recommendation. In addition, the ’50-plus’ guideline is supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, the Canadian Cancer Society, the National Clinical Guidelines Centre [UK], the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence [UK], and various medical Royal Colleges.
      “The guideline is also recommended by the Nordic Cochrane Centre, an independent research centre which has published more research on mammography screening than any other independent institution; you can see their leaflet online [PDF here].”
      Are any other countries implementing these guidelines? The US is not always right.
      “Canada, Australia and England all have similar guidelines recommending screening from age 50. Other European countries do so also. The more progressive are considering abandoning some screening programmes that have not proven to improve health or reduce deaths.
      “For example, a large Danish study found that two regions had similar drops in breast cancer mortality over the same period despite one having no screening programme at all. The mortality drops were due to improved treatment and access to it.”

      • Mockingjay says:

        There needs to be an Independent study on Bermuda, especially concerning those of African Descent.

  6. Butterfield says:

    Yes!!! Please reconsider and everyone come to Cabinet grounds this evening to show support!

  7. MY RIGHTS!!! says:

    I feel that the Gov’t needs to be proactive not reactive. If you can detect a cancerous tumor earlier, it will cost insurance companies alot less to attack the tumor in the beginning, than catching it in the later stages and having to cover someone’s medical expenses. I feel that everyone should have the right to receive tests or treatments to detect any illnesses which may affect their health. How did this right become a Gov’t issue?

  8. Family Man says:

    Don’t let science get in the way of a good superstition.

  9. Spoton says:

    Yes I bah. Keep up the good work!

  10. I totally agree with the old adage, “an oz. of prevention is worth a lb. of cure.” Yet, after reading the above article sent by the Bermuda Health Council
    I can, (and do) compromise with B.H.C. in acknowledging the following information that has now been presented to the general public:

    “Locally the guidelines were recommended by physician leaders: the then President of the Bermuda Medical Doctors’ Association [BMDA], the Chief of Staff of the Bermuda Hospitals Board [BHB], and the Chief Medical Officer.” A Health Council spokesperson said, “The goal to adopt international screening guidelines in Bermuda emerged through a Health Council collaboration with local physician leaders: the Bermuda Medical Doctors’ Association [BMDA], the Bermuda Medical Council [BMC], the Bermuda Hospitals Board [BHB], and the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment.”
    Following are just a few pertinent point to be considered.
    (1)If I am under 50 and want to have a mammogram, will I have to pay for it myself?
    “As with all medical interventions, you should discuss it with your medical doctor first. Together you’ll make a decision that is right for you. If your doctor does not see clinical reasons for you to have a screening mammogram, you could pay for it yourself, as you would for any medically unnecessary procedure.” “If your doctor sees merit in referring you, your insurance will
    cover it by law.”
    (2) Isn’t changing the age to 50 for screenings just the Government implementing a cost-saving measure?
    “This is not a cost-saving measure. The guideline was recommended by local medical leaders concerned with healthcare quality and the benefits and risks of medical interventions. In fact, data shows that too many women aged 50 to 74 are neglecting screening at present, and more effort has to be made to encourage this group…“The Government will not see any material savings from the shift.”
    (3) What harm can mammograms really do? My mom has been having them since she was 40 without any signs of problems.
    “It exposes women to low levels of radiation which, over time, can be a greater risk in itself. In addition, intensive screening results in finding a multitude of minor and innocuous abnormalities that are then investigated and treated more invasively, though they were never going to become serious.
    “This is known as over-diagnosis, and it can cause harm to women, as well as contribute to unnecessary psychological distress.”

  11. Mary says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the tone and content of this article. I hope the government reconsiders their position