GOP senator apologizes for mammogram joke
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Kan.) is apologizing after brushing off a reporter's question about a rule mandating health insurers cover mammograms with a joke.

"I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women's health & I never intended to indicate otherwise," Roberts wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Talking Points Memo reporter Alice Ollstein tweeted about an exchange she had with the senator.

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She asked him if he would back GOP leadership's proposal to do away with ObamaCare's essential health benefits rule, which requires insurance plans to cover certain basic health services, including preventive services such as mammograms.

"I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms," Roberts reportedly said in response. 

The exchange came as Republican leaders scramble to secure support for their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Their replacement measure, the American Health Care Act, has drawn opposition from centrist Republicans and congressional conservatives, who have argued that it does not go far enough to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

GOP leaders promised on Wednesday that if the bill passes the House, the Senate will add a provision getting rid of the health benefits rule, which conservatives have long opposed.