Hospital mergers don’t typically come to mind when thinking about threats to reproductive health. But, because Catholic hospitals do not provide certain reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, tubal ligation and vasectomies, a wave of mergers between secular (and even public) hospitals and Catholic affiliated hospitals in Washington state is doing just that.
If all of the proposed mergers in the state were to be completed, almost half of Washington’s hospital beds would be controlled by Catholic health systems. In fact, all of the beds in 10 of Washington’s 39 counties could be subject to religious restrictions, forcing residents to travel significant distances to find a secular hospital. If the proposed merger between Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health Systems is completed, for example, residents in Bremerton would have to take an hour long ferry ride to get to the next closest acute care hospital. Read more »
I love my baby. He is so sweet and his laughter makes any bad mood float away. But not only is my baby oh so sweet, he also made me aware of a breast lump. I noticed it once I started nursing him, because, really, I never really paid much attention to the issue of breast lumps and never did any self exams.
I know, I know, health groups like American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists advocate women to have “breast self awareness,” and to report any changes to your breasts to your health care providers. But, since I don’t have any risk factors, I just never thought I would be in trouble. Well, after finding that not-so-small lump, I felt guilty. I realized even though I’m a huge advocate of preventive health, I wasn’t doing the one simple step of taking care of myself by getting preventive health screenings. And I realize, this is what preventive health is about, it’s about taking those steps to get ahead of health concerns before the health concerns get ahead of you. Read more »
I have written many a blog here at the National Women’s Law Center explaining why Medicaid is important to women’s health. Nearly 70% of adults on Medicaid are women and the program provides important benefits to women including family planning services, comprehensive maternity care, treatment for chronic conditions, treatment for breast and cervical cancer, and long-term care services and supports. If you’re a regular reader, you may have even seen my blogs explaining that Medicaid’s cost sharing limits and low or absent premiums are vital to low-income women who have limited disposable incomes to cover their family’s basic needs.
Last Friday, District Court Judge Carol Jackson dismissed a case filed by O’Brien Industrial Holdings and Frank O’Brien (the owner) against the HHS rule requiring health insurance coverage of birth control with no co-pay. In a decision that is worthy of reading a couple of times over (PDF), Judge Jackson explained in careful detail why, in fact, the HHS rule does not violate the statutory or constitutional claims made by O’Brien and his for-profit mining company (in which he claimed that the rule violated the company’s and his religious liberty).
There are some great lines in the decision. One of my favorites is:
The rule does not "directly and inevitably prevent plaintiffs from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Frank O’Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion. Instead, plaintiffs remain free to exercise their religion, by not using contraceptives and by discouraging employees from using contraceptives..."
Such a line says what we have been saying all along... the birth control rule does not violate religious freedom. Read more »
Have you ever tried to compare health plans? It isn’t easy. Insurance companies design brochures to sell their plans. They have pictures of people holding hands, pushing a child on a swing, smiling in the doctor’s office and just being happy. They highlight everything that is great about the plan and, by the time you get to the chart summarizing the benefits, you would think this is the best insurance plan ever.
Then you look at another plan’s brochure that also makes the plan seem like the best insurance plan ever. But you try to compare the benefits and you aren’t really sure what you are comparing. The brochures use different terms and different formats. You can’t find a description of maternity coverage. You are trying to figure out how all the dollars and percentages add up to actual costs.
Starting today, things are different. That is because plans now have to provide all applicants and enrollees a standard Summary of Benefits and Coverage (called the SBC for short) and a uniform glossary. The Summary is simple to read, short, and provides a standard chart of benefits and coverage examples that every plan must use. The Glossary provides standard definitions of important health insurance terms that impact your coverage. Read more »
When you hear the word lobbyist, what comes to mind? Special interests, back-door wheelings and dealings, and other generally shady shenanigans, right? Not always, as it turns out.
Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to lobby my representatives in Congress as part of Intern Advocacy Day, a joint endeavor between Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, CHANGE, and Choice USA. Over forty interns from various health advocacy organizations around DC gathered near the Capitol to advocate on behalf of two very important pieces of legislation, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act and the Global Democracy Promotion Act.
As an NWLC intern and as a person who cares about the rights of women more generally, I was eager to urge my congressional delegation to champion these bills. Although they differ wildly in scope, both pieces of legislation are premised on the idea that the best way to promote healthy, empowered decision-making is through the provision of uncensored, scientifically accurate information that is free of ideological biases and paternalistic assumptions.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, for instance, sets forth a policy vision for federally funded comprehensive sex education programs. It outlines standards that sex education curricula must adhere to in order to receive federal funding, directs grant money to comprehensive sex education programs that prioritize information over ideology, and allows for education that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. Read more »
Today the House of Representatives will vote on the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health reform law that the Supreme Court recently determined to be constitutional. Congress has already voted to repeal all or part of this law30 previous times – but perhaps the House leaders really just want to go out for ice cream and have the number 31 stuck in their heads. Below we offer our 31 favorite flavors of health reform, or at least our 31 favorite reasons to protect the Affordable Care Act.
7 million American women will be eligible for tax credits to help them purchase coverage.
Millions of uninsured women will be newly eligible for Medicaid coverage.
6.6 million young adults have already benefited from the provision that enables children to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26.
Insurance companies cannot drop your coverage if you get sick.
Insurers will no longer be able to put lifetime and annual caps on your coverage.
Insurance companies must spend 80 to 85 percent of premiums on health care, instead of on administrative costs and profits.
In her recent post on National Review Online, Grace-Marie Turner argues that American women will pay more for health insurance coverage while losing autonomy, choice and high-quality care under the Affordable Care Act. These accusations – and others – compose a familiar refrain from the opponents of the health care law, but it is a chorus that is inaccurate and out of tune.
On the contrary, the ACA is already helping women and their families gain access to affordable coverage and will continue to expand access as the law is implemented. For example, over 19 million women already have access to a number of preventive services without cost-sharing, including mammograms and colonoscopies. And contrary to Turner’s claims that the ACA will result in the loss of dependent coverage,over 2.5 million young people have been able to gain coverage through a provision that allows dependents to stay on their parents’ coverage through age 26.
Over the next few years, the ACA will continue to expand health care access for millions of American women – such as women who today cannot purchase coverage in the individual market because they have a pre-existing condition, who must pay more than men for the same health insurance policy, and whose individual market plan does not even provide coverage for maternity care. Read more »
The major health insurers held a hot-ticket event yesterday – first United Healthcare announced that it would retain key patient protections and health coverage guarantees, no matter how the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, and by mid-afternoon it seemed like all of the other health plans wanted to be at the party, too.
First, United Healthcare kicked off the festivities in grand style by promising that it would continue to cover preventive care without requiring patients to make copayments, allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans as dependents through age 26, and continue to follow the new law’s ban on lifetime benefit limits. United will also continue to enforce patient rights through a streamlined appeals process and will not seek to rescind a member’s coverage after they become sick (except in cases of a fraudulent insurance application).
Other insurance plans wanted to join the party. As the day wore on, Humana and Aetna announced that they would continue to honor identical or near-identical reforms, with Aetna emphasizing that they would also continue working with hospitals, doctors and other health providers to develop innovative delivery system reforms – another hallmark of the new law. The national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association “encouraged” local Blues plans to continue to honor these provisions from the ACA.
Other plans, such as CIGNA and Wellpoint, weren’t sure that they wanted to join the festivities. But most importantly, one type of guest wasn’t invited to the party at all. Namely, sick people. Read more »
Got questions about what the health care law means for women? We've got answers! I'll be at the White House this Thursday, June 7, from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. ET for an interactive Women's Health Townhall. Please join us online!
You can submit questions by visiting us on Facebook and leaving your question as a comment, or by sending a tweet with the hashtag #WomensHealth. Then on Thursday, June 7 from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. ET, you can watch the event live at www.whitehouse.gov/live or follow our live tweets @nwlc to see if your question is answered.
The White House's Women’s Health Townhall participants include:
Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council