Sen. Pat Roberts apologized Thursday after receiving backlash for a joke he made about mammograms while discussing the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
A Talking Points Memo reporter asked the Kansas Republican if he supports a potential change in the GOP’s plan that would scrap Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits rule, which requires insurers to cover “essential” health services like maternity care and mammograms.
“I sure don’t want my mammogram benefits taken away,” Mr. Roberts quipped, according to the website.
Other members of Congress quickly condemned the comment, saying mammograms are essential for detecting breast cancer in women.
“40,000 US women will die from breast cancer this year,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee. “But Republicans think taking away coverage for mammograms is funny. #TrumpCare.”
“Cancer is no joke,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Judy Chu. “Mammograms save lives. Same reason we pay for prostate exams. Government shouldn’t decide what care women can access.”
“I don’t want to lose my prostate cancer screenings either. #AHCA #Trumpcare,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier.
Mr. Roberts later took to Twitter to apologize.
“I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic,” he wrote. “Mammograms are essential to women’s health & I never intended to indicate otherwise.”
He said in a statement that he knows “several individuals whose lives have been saved by mammograms” and understands their importance, CNN reported.
Before he issued his apology Thursday, Mr. Roberts told CNN that he doesn’t think all of the benefits declared “essential” are really necessary, and that people should be able to choose plans that cater to what they think is essential. Asked whether mammograms should be covered, Mr. Roberts suggested he wouldn’t need them because he’s a man, CNN reported.