The Debate Surrounding Health Care Administration and Reform Continues

Guest blogger Cheryl Jacque is a contributing researcher and writer to the online health administration resource The Health Administration Project. Today, Cheryl examines what health care reforms mean to health care administration and its clients, including women that are now eligible to receive certain services without being charged co-pay fees.

As many estimate that health care in the US could soon rise to 20% of GDP spending, lawmakers have been debating a massive overhaul of the entire system. Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) estimates that its reforms will allow 32 million more Americans to receive insurance. Although many of these changes are already underway, debate continues on how to best care for the country’s large and uniquely diverse population.

For many struggling American families, the ACA undoubtedly offers many appreciated benefits. Under the new regulations, those with family plans can keep their children covered until age 26 regardless of marital status, student status, living situation, or if they have a pre-existing condition. As increasing numbers of young people are graduating from college without immediate job prospects, parents and their children are collectively breathing a sigh of relief knowing they can remain covered while looking for work in a struggling market.

This measure has increased the number of insured Americans aged 19 to 25 from 64% to 73% between 2010 and 2011, suggesting that while the US health care crisis has not yet been solved, some actions are having a positive affect.

One of the most controversial aspects of the health plan has been the changes to Medicare, which don’t begin til 2014. Under some Medicare drug plans, after an individual’s drug plan has spent a certain amount of money for covered drugs, the individual is responsible for paying the full costs of prescription drugs until they reach the amount required for catastrophic care coverage, a period widely referred to as the coverage gap, or “donut hole.” While the Affordable Care Act is making an effort to shrink the coverage gap, it won’t be fully closed until 2020, a fact that the plan’s opponents continue to criticize.

Perhaps the most surprising group to see major changes in coverage is also the largest. Beginning this past summer, all women were given assured access to preventative health services and are no longer subject to additional insurance fees and charges. These services will include annual visits to doctors, AIDS virus screening and counseling about sexually transmitted infections, breastfeeding supplies, and even screening and counseling services for domestic violence. Women aged 30 and over will be offered even more services, including DNA testing for the human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical cancer. In addition, beginning in 2014, insurers will no longer be allowed to charge women higher premiums than men. It is estimated that these additional preventative services will save millions annually.

The final aspect of the health care bill that is causing opponents, like the CEO of Papa John’s pizza, to declare reform akin to socialism is that all companies with more than 50 employees will be subject to fines if they do not provide their employees with health insurance. Many industry analysts say this will cost companies millions annually and will continue to give the United States a reputation that is unfriendly towards business interests.

Health care reform is still a work in progress. While the Affordable Care Act provides coverage at lowered rates to millions who would otherwise go uninsured, the coverage gap in Medicare illustrates that there will still be those that do not receive the care they need. Many also argue that until Americans begin to make health decisions, health care will always be expensive, and this reform still fails to address that.

A Declaration of Love to the US, From a European Who Would Vote for Obama

I live in France, and I regularly witness anti-American sentiments. But I believe that the U.S. is worthy of admiration. I feel close to this country, as if it were a zeyde who would tell me, “I started with nothing not so long ago and look where I am today. Go, go on.” This Yiddish grandfather could tell me how people learnt from each other and, with all their dreams and joys, all their differences and fights, built a vast place and entered into the history as best as one can.

If I could vote in the U.S. presidential election, I would vote for Barack Obama. To me, he embodies the ethnic, religious, and cultural mix of so many other Americans. Obama also embodies tolerance; he has the courage and the merit to speak about a woman’s right to choose, even while 50% of the U.S. population identifies as anti-choice. I was moved the first time I saw a picture of Obama praying; I am not a Christian, but I am a believer who is the result of an interracial and interreligious (Muslim-Jewish) marriage. So I am personally touched by the (success) story of President Obama.

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Facing Massive Backlash, Komen Foundation Reverses Itself

After announcing on Wednesday that it would no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates for breast cancer screening and education programs, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation said earlier today that it would revise the policy which led to Planned Parenthood’s defunding.

While the initial rationale for defunding the organization was that it was undergoing a federal investigation, Komen now states that its policy will be amended so that only criminal, rather than political, investigations would disqualify a group from receiving funding. The statement did not address another reason that Komen’s president gave for cutting the funding: that Planned Parenthood referred patients to other providers for mammograms, rather than performing them themselves.

Perhaps this reason wasn’t addressed because it doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s hardly uncommon for a primary physician to refer a patient to a specialist for further testing. And referring out doesn’t take away from the fact that the patient has been alerted to a potentially serious problem. Just being able to perform the initial exam and educate women about next steps is a vital service, and one that Planned Parenthood is fully capable of providing.

Komen’s initial decision was swiftly met with both outrage and outpourings of support for Planned Parenthood. As the foundation continues its attempts at damage control, Planned Parenthood has released its own thoughts on the matter: “We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers.”

New Jersey Nurses Refuse to Treat Abortion Patients

A recent lawsuit in New Jersey could greatly affect the way abortion services are performed in hospitals across the country. In late October, twelve nurses filed a suit claiming that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal law with their announcement that nurses would have to help abortion patients before and after the procedure. This announcement, which came in mid-September, reversed the institution’s previous policy that nurses could refuse to assist these patients based on their moral or religious objections.

New Jersey is far from the only state that allows medical employees to opt out of performing or assisting in abortion procedures. These so-called “conscience” protections were greatly strengthened towards the end of George W. Bush’s presidency; a regulation enacted shortly before he left office would have withheld federal funding from hospitals, clinics, and even state and local governments that did not allow health care employees to refuse to participate in any procedure violated their religious, moral, or personal beliefs. This regulation was widely interpreted as protecting employees that refused to provide birth control pills, perform in-vitro fertilization for single women or lesbians, and refuse to treat gay AIDS patients, among other services. Earlier this year, President Obama rescinded most of the regulation – leaving only the protection for nurses or doctors that do not want to perform abortions or sterilizations. [Read more...]

What Can Gabrielle Giffords’ Recovery Teach Us?

I was really inspired this week by the interview that Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly did with Diane Sawyer. Watching the two of them interact makes me feel like committed partners can really make a difference for one another.

The other thing that stands out about Gabrielle Giffords’ story is that her recovery has been possible because she has received world-class health care, all thanks to her government-provided health care insurance. Giffords took a lot of heat for voting in favor of health care reform. But I hope that people who criticized her stance will use her story as an object lesson. Government-run health care can work wonders for people.

What was your impression after watching the Giffords interview? What stood out to you?

Occupy Wall Street and Feminism

As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain traction both in New York City and around the country, one question keeps popping up: is this a feminist movement? After all, in its energy, audacity, and sense of limitless possibility, OWS is reminiscent of the feminist movement some forty years ago.

On the Ms. Blog, Daphne Muller argues that OWS is indeed a feminist fight. “I realized that Occupy Wall Street is galvanizing because the ire is feminist, anti-colonialist, anti-racist and anti-patriarchal,” she writes, adding that Code Pink was very visible at the New York protest site that she visited. But while she praises the diversity on display at Liberty Plaza, Muller does acknowledge that men have dominated both intra-movement discussions and mainstream media representation.

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Update: Virginia Board of Health Approves Abortion Clinic Regulations

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Well, this is just crappy: today the Virginia Board of Health voted 12-1 to uphold new restrictions  on the the state’s abortion clinics. The decision followed a standing-room-only meeting to hear comments on the regulations, which will place hospital-level operating and building requirements on all 21 abortion clinics in the state.

Proponents of the regulations claim that they will make abortions safer for women, although the procedure is extremely safe already. Approximately 26,000 abortions are performed in Virginia hospitals and clinics every year; between 1999 and 2009, one woman died as a result of complications. Compare that to the eleven women that died in 2009 alone as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications. Not to mention that clinics in Virginia only perform first-trimester abortions, which are widely regarded as the safest kind of abortion to perform.

I don’t know, I’m not really seeing how mandating covered entryways and high ceilings will ensure that an already-safe procedure will become even safer. But if these regulations are so necessary, then why aren’t other stand-alone clinics that provide invasive surgical services, like eye surgery or plastic surgery, being held to the same standards? [Read more...]

Birth Control To Be Covered by Insurance Companies

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Well, Serena, you asked for it – and you got it! The Obama administration issued new standards that will require insurance companies to consider birth control as preventive care, and requires companies to cover birth control without a co-pay. The new rules go into effect on August 1, 2012 (or the following January, for plans that operate on the calendar year).

Some more good news: all forms of contraception that have been approved by the FDA are covered, along with emergency contraceptives like Plan B and ella. Sterilization procedures are also covered, as well as a host of other preventive services like screening for HIV, HPV testing, and equipment and counseling to promote breast feeding.

It’s important to note that this does not mean birth control is now “free.” Women will still have to pay for their health insurance – but beginning in 2012, they won’t also have to come up with a co-pay for these services.

Still, this is very good news – even if, as Irin at Jezebel pointed out, “the very fact that birth control is politicized or “controversial” is a travesty.” I couldn’t agree more; after all, the decision to use birth control, and which method to use, is a private choice that should only be made by the person who’s actually using the medication. Not to mention that it’s more than a bit hypocritical for all those anti-choicers out there to be foaming at the mouth about increasing access to birth control – how else do they think unwanted pregnancies will be prevented? Oh, right, they don’t think that women should be having sex in the first place.

So yes, there are plenty of people out there like Bill “many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex“ O’Reilly to remind us of  how many misconceptions and stereotypes still exist about sex, women, and birth control. Which makes it that much more impressive that the Obama administration has made such a common-sense decision, hopefully bringing us that much closer to a society where women and men have full autonomy over their bodies and their health care choices.

Pro-Choice News Roundup

Free Birth Control? Implausible. Well, maybe. Abortion Gang.

Ohio Abortion Ban Challenges Terms of Roe v. Wade. Huffington Post.

Tough Titty: On Feminist Mothering and the Breastfeeding Doll. Alternet.

Abortions via ‘telemedicine’ are safe, effective, Iowa study finds. MSNBC.

IOM recommends free birth control under health care reform law. Feministing.

Why Budget Cuts are a Feminist Issue

This post comes to us from guest blogger Talia bat Pessi bat Feige bat Ita bat Gittel. Talia regularly blogs over at Star of Davida.

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a NOW webinar narrated by Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW, titled “The Budget Deal is a Feminist Issue.” The webinar discussed how Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget deal would cut several social services, which women depend disproportionately on.

O’Neill cited several statistics about women’s dependence compared to men’s on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Over half of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and women are more likely to report having three or more chronic conditions, which shows that they utilize Medicare more than men do. 70% of Medicaid dollars support nursing homes and families with disabled members; 80% of nursing home residents are women, and nursing home employees are also mostly women. Social Security provides more than 60% of the total income for women 65 and older, and 57% of beneficiaries are women.

Ryan’s budget also cuts family planning clinics, Pell grants, job training, Head Start, childcare programs, and WIC nutrition programs, which clearly serve women predominantly. Many more women work in the public sector, and they are disproportionately losing jobs because governments at all levels are cutting workers. This comes against the backdrop of women having fewer fallback resources in the first place because of the persistent gender-based wage gap, which costs women between $400,000 and $2,000,000 over a lifetime.  [Read more...]