Raising Women’s Voices

Giving Testimony at New York City Council’s Public Hearing–Personal Story

Posted in Personal Stories by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

On Thursday, April 23rd, the New York City Council held a public hearing concerning young adults and health insurance. I was fortunate enough to give testimony at this hearing since, as a young adult myself, the quandary of affordable, accessible health care is an important and relevant issue for me.

By now, it feels as if most of us–whether through involvement in the healthcare sphere or as a consumer being warned, cautioned, shocked or outraged–can tick off the statistics. Even if we don’t know exact numbers, we know the facts: that it’s the young adults, women in particular, aged 19-29 that are struggling with insurance, specifically that we have a 30% uninsurance rate, double working adults over age 30; that on our 19th birthdays, we enter a whole new health insurance game where we’re no longer covered as children; that when we graduate, we’re no longer under our school’s plan–if we were ever offered one; that, too early, we age out of our parents’ plan–if we were lucky enough to be covered by it in the first place.

Young adults, without the contagiousness of being a child, or the frailty of being an “adult” adult, are widely considered the “healthiest” age group. And maybe we are. But that not why we have such high rates of uninsurance. It’s because insurance is too expensive and too inaccessible for us–with our temporary, part-time, low-paying or non-insurance providing positions.

We are not, as we are so often called, “young invincibles”. We need primary care, we need preventative care, we need dental, mental and reproductive health care. At an age when many of us become parents for the first time, we need care to ensure the possibility of a safe pregnancy, adequate pre-natal care, and post-delivery care as well.

Most in attendance at the public hearing testified about the numbers, the issues, compared NY to other states where the age young adults phase out of their parents’ plan is higher, and offered some possible solutions. I was one of the few who got to share my story–to relay my own healthcare struggle as a young adult.

To keep it simple: I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was four years old. I take excellent care of myself and have a wonderful support system. But to the health insurance world, I’m just another pre-existing condition. A risk. And so I, a perfect example of needing health insurance, have to work harder, jump through more hoops, and pay more for health insurance than your average young invincible.

It’s my hope that along with the other young women who shared their stories, that our personal struggles put faces to this issue, and helped stress the need for action, for a significant change in healthcare policy. With Obama being elected, we’re talking a lot about change, and appearing open to policy reform along with the myriad of personal struggles being shared. What’s needed now, though, is definitive action. A response that proves that healthcare is truly a right, rather than a difficult to navigate privilege.

rwv-and-phnayc-009That’s me, giving testimony!

rwv-and-phnayc-010Councilman Joel Rivera

Sara Siegel

Mind the Gap

Posted in Health Disparities by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

According to a new Harvard study, health disparities between those of different socioeconomic groups persists throughout middle age. But at 65, with near-universal Medicare benefits, health gaps narrow between Americans of different races, ethnicities, and education levels.

Previous research has shown that those with health insurance tend to be healthier, and that most likely those without are black, Hispanic, or have less education.

The study tracked health measures in adults ages 4o to 85 who had high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cover_no_words1stroke, or diabetes. After 8 years, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol had all improved–but there remained a gap between socio-economic groups.

After age 65–at which point all in the study were eligible for Medicare–the racial and educational gaps dropped significantly.

Universal healthcare would be beneficial in covering those in the most vulnerable groups. And, as Dr. Ashwini R. Sehgal of Case Western Reserve University writes, “Simply improving quality of care will not eliminate disparities. Because minority, socioeconomic, and insurance status often overlap, providing universal health coverage has the potential to reduce several types of disparities.” 

Public Hearing

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

The Office of Women’s Health of the NIH is hosting a public hearing at UCSF to receive testimony on important women’s issues.

Registration is required, but at no cost. Written testimony may be submitted, as well.

For details, click here.

Hearings are also scheduled for Chicago, and Providence, RI.

Who Makes the Decision?

Posted in Health Reform Policy Proposals by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

According to a March 12–March 22 poll conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, more than half of US residents said they would trust an independent scientific panel to determine which treatments medical insurers should cover. This is compared to the 42% who would trust a government health agency.

Currently, health insurance plans have no national standard to commit to. As part of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, $1 billion has been assigned for comparative effectiveness research, to study different types of medical treatment to determine what works best. Officials have been seeking out public opinion and advice from public health officials on how it should be conducted.

Shared Responsibility Most Favorable

Posted in DC Reform by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

According to a study published in Health Affairs, 48% of US residents in 2008 claimed they would support an individual mandate which would require all residents to have health insurance.

Notably, this number increases to 59% if included as part of a “shared responsibility” plan that includes requirements from insurers, employers, and the government, as well.

The study found that “shared responsibility” plans are more favorable than individual mandates across all sociodemographic and partisan groups.

Rally in Vermont!

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

In Vermont? Near Montpelier?

Join NESRI in what’s sure to be a historic rally for healthcare on May 1.

While healthcar eis still treated as a commodity, Vermont citizens are ready to rally behind the belief that healthcare is a human right.

For more information, check out NESRI’s website.

Rally details below:

What:   The rally is part of the Vermont Workers’ Center’s “Healthcare is a Human Right” campaign, which demands a health care system based on the principles of universality, equity and accountability. This would guarantee that everyone can get the health care they need, when and where they need it. By evoking these human rights principles, the campaign is building a large grassroots movement that seeks to change what is considered politically possible.

When:  12 noon – 2pm, Friday, May 1st

Where:  Statehouse, Montpelier, VT

Who:  The Vermont Workers’ Center and Vermonters who are committed to fighting for their human right to health care (a survey by the Workers’ Center has shown that over 95% of Vermonters believe that health care is a human right).  The rally has been endorsed by over 100 national and state-based organizations and 25 faith leaders. Small business owners and workers may close shop or call in sick to take part in the weekday rally.

Why: NESRI board member Paul Farmer, a founding director of Partners in Health, stresses that “The ongoing struggle for the right to health care has always needed champions. Remember Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Movement? Remember the march on Washington? The Vermont Workers’ Center is a vital member of this movement for health, working to ensure that all people get the health care they need regardless of their ability to pay. Some things are not meant to be commodities – they are meant to be rights.”

The Cost of Copayments

Posted in Affordability by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

According to a RAND Corp. study published on April 27, the number of chronic patients who postpone treatment because of high out-of-pocket costs is a large–and growing–concern.

copayThe study included over 272,000 retirees, and focused on 117,000 who were newly diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol to see when they began filling prescriptions. All of the 272,000 received coverage under 31 employer-sponsored health plans between 1997 and 2002.

The study showed that patients who began treatment within a year of being diagnosed dropped from 55% to 40% when copayments doubled.

We all know by now that complications grow more serious when treatment or prescriptions are delayed. In this case, avoiding treatment leads to higher rates of heart attack and stroke.

Dr. Matthew Solomon, the article’s lead author, and an adjunct researcher at RAND, has said, “Epidemiologic studies tell us that we do a terrible job of treating patients with these conditions. Now we know one reason why.” 

Congressional Call for Healthcare Policy Reform

Posted in DC Reform by raisingwomensvoices on April 30, 2009

On April 18th, the Black Caucus (CBC), Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and Progressive Caucus (CPC)–whose members make up over 25% of House membership and over 50% of total votes needed to approve legislation–sent joint letters to President Obama and the Democratic Leadership. The caucuses stressed that “support for enacting legislation this year to guarantee affordable health care for all firmly hinges on the inclusion of a robust public health insurance plan like Medicare”.

Together, 117 members of the House and Senate belong to at least one of these four caucuses, creating new developments in the healthcare policy debate.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, notes that the United States is the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare. And with 46 million uninsured.

And Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, highlights the importance of both this action and unity. Specifically, these caucuses represent the most underrepresented communities, where healthcare is a privilege, rather than a right.

Birth Survey Evaluates Local Facilities

Posted in Health Disparities, Maternity Care, Personal Stories, Reports and Studies, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on April 27, 2009

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) has released thousands of feedback postings on obstetricians, midwives, hospitals, birth centers, and home birth services.  The  program is  “dedicated to improving maternity care for all women. We will do this by 1) creating a higher level of transparency in maternity care so that women will be better able to make informed decisions about where and with whom to birth and 2) providing practitioners and hospitals with information that will aid in evaluating and improving quality of care.”

 The Birth Survey allows individuals to share their own experiences and birth stories, connect with other mothers, hospitals, doctors and midwives in their area, and learn more about the intervention rates of hospitals.

The program’s objectives include:

  1. Annually obtain maternity care intervention rates on an institutional level for all fifty states.
  2. Collect feedback about women’s birth experiences using an online, ongoing survey, The Birth Survey.
  3. Present official hospital intervention rates, results of The Birth Survey, and information about the MFCI in an on-line format.
  4. Increase public awareness of differences among maternity care providers and facilities and increase recognition of the MFCI as the gold standard for maternity care. 

“A woman who looks at a list of names from her insurance company is often choosing a provider on nothing but blind luck. Where and with whom to give birth are important health care decisions. Research shows that both provider and location have a significant impact on birth outcomes. CIMS wants expectant parents to ask questions of their providers and facilities, and have access to more information about their local options”, said Elan McAllister, founder of Choices in Childbirth in New York City and co-chair of the The Birth Survey committee.

To volunteer or get more information about the New York City Pilot please e-mail info@choicesinchildbirth.org.

Public Insurance Option Temporarily Set Aside for Employer Plan

Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, announced at last Friday’s meeting that he was looking into ways to maintain employer self-insurance plans, meaning that a public payer option would be set aside for the moment, though it was “still on the table”.

Baucus said he believed that there should be a national system that allows benefits from differing state plans to transfer across state lines, but stressed that it is not his plan to interfere with employer-based health plans. “The system I envision is where self-insured companies, ERISA companies, can keep their own plans and manage health insurance in the way that they have. We’re not going to change the ways self-insured companies handle health care for employees” said Baucus.

The Senate Finance Committee will meet this Wednesday to discuss Baucus’ proposals.  The Senate has the option of using the budget reconciliation process which would allow for legislation to pass with 51 votes rather than 60.  However, many Democrats, Baucus included, have noted that the reconciliation process would not be needed if they could find a way to all work together.

Read more about this from Kaiser’s Daily Health Policy Report