Tag Archives: Kathleen Sebelius

Hero of the Week: February 8, Kathleen Sebelius and the Dept. of Health and Human Services

8 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newton, national attention centered on the issue of guns. One frequent sidebar, however, was mental illness. The NRA seized on this, insisting, ironically, on a national registry of the mentally ill. For a while it seemed that shrill voices and fear would capitalize on the existing stigma and further marginalize those with mental health issues, making care for the mentally ill even more challenging. Fortunately, calmer voices are prevailing.

In a wonderful editorial this week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlines the recent history of mental health care and what her agency intends to do to improve things. Like too many caring, common sense aspects of government, inclusive approaches to mental health started nearly 50 years ago and have been undermined by the Reaganite approach to strangling government programs. Sebelius intends to reverse that trend.

She rightly identified the main problems as stigma, early diagnosis and care, and well-funded and accessible programs. Building on the fundamentals already rolling out thanks to the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be working on new programs to ensure people get the care they need and encourage people  seek timely, meaningful help. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for taking this growing problem seriously and treating it with humanity and dignity.

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s honorable mention. In another welcome move from the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has announced plans to begin implementing benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel. Sadly, because of DOMA, many of the more than 1100 benefits provided to heterosexual couples are blocked. With the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, however, gay and lesbian military personnel can be open about their families and the government can provide some basic benefits for them. It is delightful to see another agency taking the mandate of the President’s second term seriously and moving forward — with or without Congress — to do the right thing for the American people.

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?

Sebelius Flip-flops on Women’s Rights

8 Dec

Whither Women's Rights

In a shocking move yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius put junk science ahead of women’s rights. She announced that HHS would reject a recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration that Plan B (the so-called “Morning After” Pill) be made available to all women without a prescription. It is currently available over the counter to women over 17.  Rather than extend the common-sense measure of OTC availability to any woman or girl who might need this medication, proven to be safe, Sebelius offers this bizarre illogic:

However, the switch from prescription to over the counter for this product requires that we have enough evidence to show that those who use this medicine can understand the label and use the product appropriately. […]

So we’re going down the road of insisting patients take a reading test to get their medication? What about the 40-year-olds who can’t “understand the label?” What about potentially lethal medication like diet pills that are available OTC to girls of any age? This decision makes no sense and retains a dangerous barrier to getting medication that needs to be taken as promptly as possible.

What’s up, Madame Secretary? After making a strong move for women’s health care just four months ago, why this strange, dangerous decision. Make the right move and change your stand now!

Hero of the Week Award: August 5, Kathleen Sebelius

5 Aug

Hero of the Week

Regular readers of TSM will recall the wonderful report from the Institute of Medicine which recommended that birth control and other women’s health issues be treated as preventive care by insurance providers. This week, Kathleen Sebelius directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adopt this recommendation. This historic move, following her original request for the investigation which led to the report, earns Sec. Sibelius this week’s HWA.

Brava, Madame Secretary! It is a sad commentary on our times that it takes a strength of conviction to simply do the right thing. In this political climate, however, any stand for women’s rights faces angry shouts from the looniest fringes of Teabaggistan. Everyone who cares about this important issue can support our Hero by making a positive public comment on the new rules during the 60 day comment period. Let us all support this heroic action today!

This week we also have a strong honorable mention for the HWA, shared by two brave U.S. Senators. On Tuesday, Congress passed a tepid, cowardly bill which prevented the country from going into default but took no measures to really address our deficit problem. Recognizing that this bill simply defers real action at a great cost to the needy and the middle class, Senators Jeff Merkley (D – OR) and Bernie Sanders (I – VT) both voted “No” and issued bold statements about their opposition to capitulation to the wealthy in the guise of compromise. Celebrate their stand for America and read Merkley’s and Sanders’ statements today.

Parity in Healthcare? Let’s Hope So

20 Jul

I’m sure most of TSM readers remember when the George W. Bush administration approved Viagra prescriptions to be covered by health insurance.  The bitter irony was that health insurance companies were paying to make sure men could have an erection, but would not cover birth control for women.  Was I the only one that thought this smacked of misogyny?

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services received the formal report finding that birth control should be included in health plans for women, if prescribed.  The report found (none of this is a surprise) ” eight additional services as necessary to support women’s optimal health and well-being. The most contentious of these appears to be the free contraception service.”

The report also confirmed what most of us already knew: ( save for a few misogynists in the House of Representatives)

because of gaps in the current guidelines, womens needs for preventive services are not being met and this results in them suffering a disproportionate rate of chronic disease and disability. And, because they need more preventive care than men, due to “reproductive and gender-specific conditions”, they end up paying more out of their own pockets.

Now all we have to do is wait for Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to do the right thing and put into place the tools to implement the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.  Click here to see the  report.

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