“Consumers facing increased medical expenses are likely to report decreasing their contributions to retirement savings plans (29 percent), taking on credit card debt (22 percent), and experiencing difficulty paying for basic necessities like food, heat and housing (27 percent) as a result of their medical costs” according to Community Catalyst’s report, When Coverage Fails: Causes and Remedies for Inadequate Health Insurance.
The report discusses the ramifications of being under-insured, such as poor health and financial difficulties. According to the report, 50% of bankruptcies in 2007 were the result of medical debt. That same year, 25 million were under-insured–a 60% increase from 2003–meaning their insurance was not comprehensive, forcing them to forgo or delay medical treatments, preventative tests and doctor visits. The report concluded that the federal government could help alleviate the situation by setting standards for coverage and limiting deductibles.
There are many ways in which the term under-insured is used. How does Community Catalyst define ‘underinsured’? By analyzing the income of those with insurance and the out-of-pocket costs of health care they pay, and determining when those costs become too great of a barrier to overcome. The Commonwealth Fund classifies individuals as under-insured when more than 10% of their income (which is 200% below the federal poverty level) on out-of-pocket health expenses, or whose deductible consumed 5% of their income. The report found that families paid the highest deductibles, and those purchasing their insurance on their own (not through their employer) are more likely to be under-insured.
The recession has left virtually no one unaffected, and those with chronic ailments are definitely no exception. The New York Daily News reports that diabetics are cutting back on visits to the doctor, insulin and blood sugar testing, actions that could have lethal repercussions. Adding to the severity of the situation, more individuals are being diagnosed with diabetes each year, with 1.6 million new cases in 2007. Without insurance, the cost of care for diabetics can range from $350 to $900 each month. Furthermore, the medications and treatments for the condition have declined.
The New York Times recently published an article detailing the case of a man whose insurance company paid for the removal of his brain tumor, but not complete cost of the cancer pills that his doctor prescribed for his treatment. The pills, Temodar, cost $5,500 for the first 42-day, then $1,700 each month thereafter. In cases of cancer, oral drugs are quickly replacing IV treatments as the most successful options, but insurance companies and prescription drug plans often do not cover the treatment. Only providing minimal coverage, these plan often leave patients to pay the majority of the bill. As result, some patients are not able to receive the medications that they desperately need. Medicare Part D’s “doughnut hole” is another factor contributing to the lack of access to health care and prescription drugs. Not only do oral cancer drugs require a 25% co-pay, the doughnut hole ceases to provide coverage when health care costs reach $2,700; coverage is reinstated after beneficiaries pay health costs totaling more than $3000 out-of-pocket.
The Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Office on Women’s Health, Office of the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has announced a Call To Action on Breastfeeding, in which it is asking for comments from individuals and organizations about breastfeeding promoting policies and activities. According to the group,
“Breastfeeding is unquestionably healthier for mothers and babies compared to feeding with infant formula.
We are especially interested in new ideas that will increase equity in breastfeeding rates among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Ideas should build on programs and policies that are recognized to be effective or evidence-based. In addition, we welcome suggestions to adopt, expand, implement, research, or improve existing strategies.”
12 topic areas have been created for individuals to submit comments.
- Maternal and Infant Care Practices: Prenatal, Hospital, and Post-Delivery Care
- Access to Lactation Care and Support
- Health Professional Education, Publications, and Conferences
- Use of Banked Human Milk
- Work-site Lactation Support, On-site Child Care, and Milk Expression
- Paid Maternity Leave
- Portrayal of Breastfeeding in Traditional Popular Media and New Electronic Media
- Support for Breastfeeding in Public Settings
- Peer Support and Education of Family Members and Friends
- Community Support for Breastfeeding in Complementary Programs (e.g., Early Head Start, Home Visitation, Parental Training)
- Research and Surveillance
- Other Areas
Submit your comments and recommendations before the May 31st, 2009 deadline.
President Obama’s health care plan that offers options similar to that of Medicare could save Americans up to 30% on their health care premiums costs. According to MoveOn.org:
- Health care costs are spiraling out of control. From 2000 to 2008, health insurance premiums increased five times faster than wages.
- A public health insurance option would provide an affordable, quality alternative. Two new studies show that Americans could save 25% or more off of a traditional private plan. The New York Times says this would “keep the private plans honest.” They’ll have to lower rates and offer better value to compete.
- Plus, a public health insurance option would be reliable coverage for all. Private insurers are notorious for dumping people with little notice. A public option would allow consumers who’ve been dropped—or just don’t like their current coverage—to switch to a steady public choice.
Join MoveOn.org and other health advocates and send a message to Congress, telling them how you could use the 30% savings.
Nebraska’s Legislature Judiciary Committee voted 6-0 to pass legislation that would require doctors to show women seeking abortions to an ultrasound of the fetus one hour prior to the performing the procedure. The bill is now set to move to Nebraska’s full legislature for a vote. The bill passed by the Judiciary Committee states that the woman must look at the monitor to view the image, while the full legislature will consider alternate language that may allow women the choice to avert their eyes. According to The National Partnership for Women and Families, another amendment called for by Senator Kent Rogert (D), removed legislative language that would require doctors to inform women that the procedure places them at risk for psychological trauma.
On April 2nd, 2009, HHS Secretary Nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) answered a number of questions at the Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearings. Answering Senator Kyl’s queries about abortion, the Kansas Governor responded, “I am personally opposed to abortion, and my faith teaches me that all life is sacred. Throughout my career as a public official I have tried to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and thus curtail the need for abortion. In Kansas, the abortion rate dropped over 10 percent during my administration. I also signed into law bills to support adoption.”
While Sebelius does not hide the fact that she is personally opposed to abortion, she believes in protecting the Constitutional rights of America’s citizens. Sebelius went on to answer Senator Kyl’s question about her position on abortion and legislation that she vetoed while serving as Governor of Kansas. “Most of the abortion-related bills I vetoed as Governor threatened the constitutional rights or medical privacy of women. Some sought to provide people other than a woman’s doctor access to her medical records. Like most Americans, I strongly believe the privacy of medical records must be protected. In addition, I vetoed two bills that attempted to put specific regulations on abortion facilities without applying those same standards to all outpatient surgical centers. I favored treating all outpatient surgical centers equally.”
If the uninsured were an organized lobby group, Congress would have a tough time trying ignore their demands. The recession has contributed to the increased numbers of insured, pushing the numbers to over 50 million.
So what’s the problem? Health care, accessing it and paying for it, are still regarded as private issues, rather than ones of public debate. But what cannot be stressed enough is that health care affects us all. According to one writer of the Associated Press, “People who lose coverage often struggle alone instead of turning their frustration into political action”.
Health Care for America NOW!, (HCAN) a grassroots organization that advocates for quality, affordable health care for all, plans to bring more than 15,000 individuals to Washington, D.C. to lobby on the behalf of the uninsured. Campaign director Richard Kirsch notes that many of the uninsured do not have the opportunity to partake in events such as the one being organized by HCAN due to fiscal and familial restraints, which is why it is important to have those numbers represented in health reform activism.
With a presidential administration committed to health care reform and advocates across the country working for quality, affordable, comprehensive and accessible health care–the time to act is now!
Over 125 women and health advocates came together on April 1st, 2009 to participate in the National Women’s Speak-Out for Health Reform. Free and open to the public, women shared their personal stories and experiences with the health care system. Issues raised included affordability and access to care, the occurrence of high medical debt, being uninsured and under-insured, experiencing language barriers and the lack of cultural competency. Women shared stories about not being able to access coverage due to ‘pre-existing conditions’ and the difficulty in navigating the medical and insurance system, as well as the public assistance programs.
In addition to the Speak-Out, workshops were held with speakers and moderators from various health and policy organizations, including the National Women’s Health Network, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Health Law Program, Families USA, Health Care for America NOW!, the Boston Women’s Health Collective, the National Council of La Raza, the National Latina Institutefor Reproductive Health, and many more. Participants had the opportunity to learn how to listen and elicit stories, addressing how to remain accountable and ethical when gathering and sharing those stories. An entire workshop was devoted to learning about various multi-media options and new technologies available to advocates for reaching out to broader bases of supporters. Health policy experts from the state and national levels also shared some strategies to address the some of the challenges that lie ahead in the debate on health care reform.
What were some of the take-away lessons? Be bold and raise your voice! Talk with members of your community, post information on blogs and networking sites. Contact elected officials, at all levels of government, by phone or schedule a visit. Discuss with them proposed legislation that will affect members of your community, as well as past legislation that contributes to health disparities, such as the Hyde Amendment. Organize your own speak-out using our guide (available on the RWV website). Bring all the voices to the table: we may be women, but we are also teenagers, seniors, mothers, immigrants, survivors of abuse, cancer and many other illnesses, people with disabilities, members of various religious, ethnic, racial and sexual backgrounds. Together, we can achieve health care for all.
Visit the Raising Women’s Voices website for video, pictures and transcripts from the event….coming soon!
“When I withdrew from consideration to be secretary of health and human services, some pundits said health reform had received a devastating blow. While it would be flattering for me to believe that, it would also be completely wrong…the biggest error those pundits made was in thinking that the debate over health-care reform would be decided by who occupies certain positions in Washington. It won’t. It will be decided by the American people. And at the Forum on Health Reform, those voices were finally heard,” says former HHS Nominee Thomas Daschle.
The former South Dakota Senator reports that while it may be flattering to hear that his withdrawal is a serious blow to health care reform in this country, he believes that there are many advocates and reformers in Washington that are able to achieve change. Furthermore, Daschle notes that with a President who believes “Health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year” , a committed HHS nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius , White House Office of Health Reform head Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, Republicans who support health reform and allies from the pharmaceutical lobbyists, not to mention the thousands of Americans who have already voiced their concerns, health reform has many staunch supporters.
President Obama has pledged over $630 billion dollars towards Health Care Reform and he wants someone who “knows health care in and out”. On Monday March 2nd, 2009, Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat Governor from Kansas, as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to replace former nominee Senator Tom Daschle, who withdrew his nomination a month ago.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius will have plenty of work ahead of her. The HHS has over 67,000 employees , and includes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.