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Fact-Checker: Did McDonnell Support Dropping Mammograms From Health Plans?

It was an alarming advertisement, claiming Virginia's former attorney general supported a bill that would have allowed employers to drop mammograms and cancer screenings from health care plans -- made more alarming by the claim that Robert F. McDonnell was one of only nine attorneys general in the U.S. to do so.

The radio ad, circulated this month by Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, noted that his Republican opponent McDonnell was one of the nine who had not signed on to a 2006 letter opposing federal legislation that would have allowed employers to not carry such state-mandated benefits.

McDonnell's campaign says the attorney general was also opposed to the legislation, but didn't receive the draft letter. It was sent to the office of his chief deputy, William C. Mims, on April 21, 2006, a Friday, the campaign said. The deadline was Monday, April 24, and the letter was sent to Congress on Tuesday.

That weekend, McDonnell was in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Shenandoah Valley, working and spending time with his family, his campaign said.

"Due to his travel schedule, personal obligations and the carrying out of official business, McDonnell was never presented with the letter and office recommendation for his review, and the deadline passed for signing on to the national form letter," the campaign said.

McDonnell's campaign added that the sign-on letters from the National Association of Attorneys General are "routine," indicating that attorneys general got frequent letters (and perhaps all of them were not read).

Marjorie Tharp, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based association, said such letters are typically drawn up by one Democrat and one Republican attorney general and circulated among the group. At times, the association sends out several such letters per month.

"We generally try to give attorneys general as much time as possible," she said.

So he missed the chance to sign on. But would he have done so even if he had more time?

The campaign, on its Web Site, notes that the three-page sign-on letter only mentioned "mammograms" once (presumably because the legislation dealt with many different types of state-mandated benefits across the country that would be dropped, including gynecological care and diabetes equipment). Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Still, J. Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, says "Yes, absolutely," McDonnell would have signed it.

But Deeds' campaign says nothing would have prevented McDonnell from simply signing on late, as two other attorneys general, Mississippi's Jim Hood and Oklahoma's Drew Edmondson, both Democrats, did a day after the letter was sent. Their names were added to a fax sent to the Senate, noting the additions.

So McDonnell could have requested his name be added to the letter after it had been sent? Martin says he hadn't read it and the deadline had passed, "plain and simple."

"I also want to stress, again, that Bob would have signed the letter if he had seen it in time," Martin said.

By Derek Kravitz  |  October 11, 2009; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , 2009 Governor's Race Fact Checker , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Right, sure he would have signed it?? After the fact!! Was he doing his job??

Posted by: shrad433 | October 11, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The Bill that is referenced is SB 1955, or Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization And Affordability Act (HIMMAA)of 2006. It not only would have eliminated health insurance coverage requirements for preventative and screening care i.e. mammograms, but also contraceptives. The bill was vehemently opposed by Planned Parenthood. So..Mr. McDonnell may have conveniently NOT signed not seen the letter in time.

Posted by: Norswed | October 12, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

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