Tag Archives: Insurance

Affordable Care Act Rollout (Obamacare): Disaster or Distortion?

19 Nov

ACAFactsI know I talk at length about the dominant culture and discourse (the structural and institutional power source) and how targeted populations (folks that are not white, heterosexual, male, wealthy, and Christian) should unite and engage the dominate culture in a way that works towards creating equity across the board. This means a re-distribution of wealth and health insurance for all human beings. Today I want to talk about how tired I am about all this mishigas over the Affordable Care Act.

Sadly, all we hear from 99% of the media is the crash of the Affordable Care Act and has President Obama lost credibility? Really? This the question? Why are we not asking how many people are already enrolled and are still trying desperately to enroll? Why are we not asking how we can create a more equitable way of taking care of all of our citizens regardless of party lines? Why are we not asking where were all the critics when Mitt Romney had trouble rolling out the exact same health plan in Massachusetts? Why are we not asking about the cost of the government shutdown and how much of that money could have gone to health insurance? Why are we still tying employment to health insurance?

Of course, I have to bring up race and class again.  Those that are not part of the dominant culture (as defined above) suffer disproportionately as far as employment, health care, and poverty.  Do we just discard human beings in the United States if they don’t fit in to the boxes we assign them? Let’s look at a simple fact: at least 20 Million people in this country are uninsured and will have the ability to be insured thanks to the ACA. No amount of GOP whining, media distraction, website downtime, or pundit bloviating changes the fact that this is a simply good thing.

The constant barrage of criticism uses words like “debacle” and “disaster.” Are these accurate? Objectively, NO! Let’s explore the three basic criticisms of the ACA: website, signups, and cancellations.

First, the most legitimate criticism: the website doesn’t work very well. That appears to be true. The deliverable product is very complex. It needs to interact with multiple government agencies, multiple private companies, and the fundamental operations of the ACA. At the same time, it needs to protect privacy and pass along a significant amount of information. Yes, the government should have focused on making this rollout a success. On the other hand, nearly 20 MILLION visitors have started come to the site, providing a great deal of stress. GOP governors repeatedly rejected state exchanges, forcing their citizens to the federal site, contributing to overload. Many of the federal employees  responsible for making the website a success were either furloughed during the shutdown or bogged down answering questions from GOP House members. Objectively, the website needs serious improvement, but the loudest complainers (are you listening, Boehner and company?) are the biggest obstacles to its viable completion.

Pundits and so-called journalists are also bemoaning the sign-up levels. The number 27,000 is used a lot lately. Yes, that number is lower than the initial estimates. Given that nearly half of America lives in cities smaller than 25,000 , however, that means the typical U.S. citizen is seeing their entire town given health care. The dire figure also ignores a significant number of other factors. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up through state exchanges, proving that the “states rights” option that should have appealed to the GOP is a big success. Medicaid enrollment, a major element of the ACA, is up by nearly 400,000.  People under 26 can stay on family plans under the ACA, leading to a large (but so far uncalculated) number of younger Americans having coverage they would not have had. So the real number  easily 20 times larger than the pessimistic reports.

How about those cancellations? Anyone on an employer plan should remember that the plans change every year or two. That’s right, those cancellation notices that the media are saying prove the ACA doesn’t work are business as usual for insurance companies. Sadly, the cancellations that make the news ignore two other very important facts. First, many of these plans were at best cheap, ineffectual coverage. Second, many of the people who need to look for new plans qualify for much better insurance for little or no increase in payments through state or federal exchange programs.

Yes, there are legitimate frustrations. Certainly the website should have been better stress tested. At the end of the day, however, what matters is CARE. Thousands, leading to millions, of US citizens will have better coverage — or the first coverage in years (or ever) — as a result of this law. Could it be smoother or simpler? YES. But the GOP refused to pass that kind of law. The ACA is a strong step in the right direction and must be given time to succeed. Millions of Americans need that. The media need to focus on facts and benefits and stop the senseless, sensational reality-show shenanigans–all in the name of profits for the top 20% of the country.   What would it be like if each citizen was guaranteed the same health care package that all 535 congress people receive?  What is getting in the way of accomplishing this?

Affordable Care Act Helping Women

4 Aug

Thank you to my friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, for inspiring me to write this article.  During this Republican War on Women, and for those ill informed detractors of the Affordable  Care Act, it behooves everyone to know some facts on how this act actually significantly helps women. Of course for those of us who actually took the time to read the ACA, none of this comes as a big surprise.

Scientific American, points out that as of August 1 the Affordable  Care Act requires private insurance companies to provide the following for free:

  • approved contraceptives (per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended list, which includes major oral contraceptives as well as sterilization procedures) as well as contraceptive counseling;
  • well-woman visits (those annual trips in to the OB/GYN to get everything checked out);
  • breastfeeding supplies (such as breast pumps), support and counseling;
  • STI (sexually transmitted infection) counseling—including HIV testing and counseling as well as genetic HPV (human papillomaviurs) testing for women 30 and older;
  • screening for gestational diabetes (a condition which can increase the risk for complications and developing type 2 diabetes later as well as metabolic challenges for the child);
  • and domestic violence screening and counseling.

It’s about time, given that during the Bush Administration Viagra was provided for free.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Director of Health and Human Services sums it up best:

These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.

These preventive measures for women’s health (many already afforded to men) will save millions of dollars in the long run in health care costs.  If you are pro-woman and pro-woman’s health, I strongly encourage you to think about whom you will vote for this November.  Do you really want someone who has now stated that he will overturn Roe v. Wade and gut Planned Parenthood and work against civil rights of LGBT folk? Or would you prefer a President who has made it clear that women’s health issues cannot be ignored and has taken a strong stand for civil rights?

California Judge Moves DOMA One Step Closer to Extinction

27 May

Judge Claudia Wilken

Claudia Wilken, U.S. District Judge for Northern California, struck another blow against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on May 23. The case centered on benefits offered by CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. The system has refused to let gay spouses enroll in its federally approved insurance program on the grounds that they were excluded by DOMA. This practice is common in most states.

Judge Wilken ruled that the relevant provisions of DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment, writing that there was no proof the DOMA provision was “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.” She also struck down a U.S. Internal Revenue Service law to the extent that it bars domestic partners from enrolling in the long-term care insurance plan offered by CalPERS. She ordered CalPERS to begin allowing gay and lesbian spouses and partners to enroll in the plan.The full order (PDF) is available here.

This is the second ruling against DOMA’s constitutionality in recent months. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco issued a similar ruling in February in a lawsuit filed by Karen Golinski, a federal appeals court staff attorney who wants to enroll her wife in the court’s employee health plan. An appeal of White’s decision by a Republican-led Congressional group is slated to be heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in September.

The group, known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, is made up of the five top leaders of the House of Representatives. It stepped into both the cases before White and Wilken after the Obama Administration said last year it will no longer defend DOMA. Reflecting current House composition, the group has three Republicans and two Democrats. Both decisions to intercede were made by a three-two partisan vote. Judge Wilken indicated that she will suspend her order if the Group refers her decision to the 9th Circuit as they are likely to do.

DOMA is at risk on several fronts. Besides the two California cases and the Obama decision not to defend, there are two bills in Congress to repeal the law. This Respect for Marriage Act has good support in the Democrat-controlled Senate but no traction in the Republican-led House. Another ruling against DOMA in Massachusetts is currently before a federal appeals court.

The recent attention on marriage equality has actually increased approval in polls. Strong statements from the NAACP and black leaders dramatically increased approval in the African American community. Even Republican strategists have begun admitting that some of the rationale for DOMA is deeply flawed. Even if Congress can’t agree to act, the days of this discriminatory law may be numbered.

Why Americans Can’t Afford Health Care: A Must Read

14 Apr

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

Yes, another article about health care.  I need to thank TSM follower Jen Rhee for inspiring me to compose this article and for collecting data for the lovely graphs. While you take the time to really examine the graphs you will notice where we fail miserably as Americans. Please keep in mind issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, power, and privilege!  The many intersections of oppression continue to be insurmountable barriers to getting health care.  Again, the Affordable Care Act is a very small but very significant move in the right direction. Currently, everyone in Congress has no worries about health care coverage.

Action Steps: All of us need to take action here and to elect public officials, servants that agree that being a human being merits health care coverage!  Please, I strongly encourage you to take a close look at these graphs!

Decoding Your Medical Bills
Created by: Medical Billing and Coding Certification

The Affordable Care Act: Being Sick

5 Apr

The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed by the President; Barack Obama didn’t just write it on a napkin. I grow ever weary of hearing so-called journalists referring to this landmark legislation as “Obamacare.”  I am hard-pressed to believe there is not a trace of racism there.  Even here in enlightened Portland, Channel 2 and Channel 8 have repeatedly referred to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare.”  Yes, how dare President Obama want all Americans to have health insurance?  Contrast this to the supporters of the GOP candidates during the debates: they cheered for death rather than caring for all Americans.

First, let us take a real look at what the Affordable Healthcare Act does.  This law aims to improve our current health care system by increasing access to health coverage for all Americans and introducing new protections for people who have health insurance. Furthermore, the Act is not linked to employment, thus some small businesses with fewer than 25 employees can get help paying for the cost of providing health insurance; insurance companies can’t deny health coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions; insurance companies can’t place dollar limits on the health care they cover in your lifetime. These are just a few of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act which is designed to help those who have barriers to accessing healthcare.  Obviously, I have a few choice words for the Supreme Court Justices who are part of the 1% and seem poised to abolish the Act under the guise of its constitutionality.  Let us not forget that their job is to interpret the constitution, not set an agenda for a white heterosexual Christian male discourse.

What happened to the social contract?  Is Elizabeth Warren the only politician who knows about the social contract? Remember that the Affordable Care Act that garnered support from the full congress is not dissimilar to the healthcare reform proposed by Mr. Millionaire Flip Flop, Mitt Romney.

Health insurance has really hit my family hard recently, as it has hit many people in the United States.  Out of the top six industrialized nations, the U.S. falls dead last in health coverage for its citizens as well as quality of healthcare.  However, we rank first in the cost of this worst healthcare.

Insurance became quite scary for my family when my husband lost his job and we are now without any source of income.  Unfortunately, I started to become ill back in November of 2011. I am stubborn and also worried about how to pay for doctor’s appointments and for any prescriptions.  Sadly, two weeks ago, I cracked a rib during a coughing spasm, so my husband forced me to see our primary care physician.  We have a wonderfully kind and caring doctor and he and my husband pressured me to have a CT-Scan immediately.

I was rushed to St. Vincent’s hospital here in Portland where the CT-Scan showed that I had several pulmonary embolisms on both my lungs.  They admitted me to the hospital immediately and started me on blood thinners. I was unaware how serious blood clots on your lungs can be, but it was impressed upon me by many people at the hospital how many people die from pulmonary embolisms.  Needless to say, both my husband and I were quite scared. What circled in the back of my mind was also how are we going to pay for all of this? Surely, I am not the only one in the United States who is terrified of being sick and how to afford treatment.

I am back home now and my poor husband has to give me injections in my stomach of Lovenox, a blood thinner…not a trip to chuckle town. What sticks in my craw is that the 1% of Americans, many of whom hold positions in our government, never have to think about retirement accounts or how to afford healthcare, but where does that leave the rest of us?  I strongly recommend the PBS special Sick Around the World just to see how horrible and unfair our health system is here in the United States. Fair care should be common sense. It shouldn’t take an experience like mine to demonstrate how badly our system needs to be fixed. The Affordable Care Act is just the reasonable first step on that path.

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