— by Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary–Dept. of Health & Human Services
This week, starting with Mother’s Day, we celebrate National Women’s Health Week. As a nation, we honor the women in our lives – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and colleagues – by encouraging them to make their health a priority and to take steps to live healthier, happier lives.
Women are frequently the health care decision-makers in their families. We take time off from work to drive a parent to the doctor. We hold our children’s hands while they get their vaccinations. We make the appointments for our spouses’ checkups – and then make sure they actually go. We stretch and re-work our family budgets to pay the doctor’s bills. And too often, we put our own health last.
But the truth is unless we take care of ourselves first, we cannot really take care of our families. That means we have to eat right, exercise, and get the care we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, preventive care has not always been easily accessible or affordable for everyone, including young women.
But the health care law is helping to usher in a new day for women’s health. The Affordable Care Act is making it easier for women to take control of their own health. For many women, preventive services like mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, and yearly well-woman visits are now available without cost sharing. The health care law improves women’s access to appropriate preventive health screenings, which can help detect diseases early, when treatment is most effective and least costly.
Starting next year, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to refuse us coverage just because we’re battling breast cancer or have another pre-existing condition – and they won’t be allowed to charge us more just because we are women.
If you’re one of the millions of women who are uninsured or who buy insurance on their own, more options are on the way because of the Affordable Care Act. Starting October 1, 2013, you will be able to visit a new Health Insurance Marketplace where you can compare and choose from a range of plans to find one that best fits your needs and budget. All of these plans must cover a package of essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care.
To get more information about the Marketplace and to sign up for email and text updates to get ready for October, visit HealthCare.gov.
Being healthy starts with each of us taking control. So Monday on National Women’s Checkup Day, and during National Women’s Health Week, I encourage you to sit down with your doctor or health care provider and talk about what you can do to take control of your health.
- Learn more about National Women’s Health Week and find a health week event in your community.
- Follow #NWHW on Twitter.
- For more information on how the health care law is addressing women’s unique health needs, visithttp://www.womenshealth.gov/NWHW/activity-planning/NWHW-Infographic-508.pdf
—by Allen Clifton
I’m so tired of hearing this absurd claim by Republicans that they are the “party for Constitutional values.” I wrote an article a couple weeks ago about how Republicans love a Constitution, just not ours. But even when I spelled it out simply for them, they still didn’t get it. They don’t understand that simply [read full article here]
There’s a great post over an AlterNet today about the prices of Generic drugs that you really should take the time to read.
“According to a new Consumer Reports investigative study published Thursday, there is rampant variation in the price of generic drugs as large U.S. pharmacy chains — including CVS, Rite Aid, and Target — marking up the prices of generic drug versions for common medications by as much as 18 times what wholesale chains like Costco charge. That price variance ends up costing Americans, who spend an average of $758 out-of-pocket on drugs every year, hundreds of dollars in unnecessary spending each month.” Read the rest of this article …
- STUDY: CVS, Rite Aid, And Other Chain Pharmacies Mark Up Generic Drugs By Up To 18 Times Their Cost (thinkprogress.org)
- STUDY: CVS, Rite Aid, And Other Chain Pharmacies Sell Generic Drugs At Up To 18 Times Their Cost (kstreet607.com)
- Generic retail drug-pricing varies by store (abclocal.go.com)
- Suspicious ‘Profit Sharing’ Deals between Makers of Generic and Branded Drugs under Scrutiny (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Where Should Grandma get her Generic Drugs? Consumer Reports shows CVS has Highest Prices, Costco has Lowest (scienceworldreport.com)
— by ThinkProgress War Room | Mar 27, 2013
Recently, we discussed some of the terrible bills floating around out there in state legislatures. Here’s another look at some of the worst proposals, including a couple that were signed into law this week:
- NORTH DAKOTA: The state’s Republican governor signed a trifecta of terrible anti-abortion bills, which are likely to have the effect of banning abortion in the state. One bill unconstitutionally bans abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. An even more insidious bill takes up the anti-abortion movement’s favorite new tactic: drastic overregulation of abortion clinics to all but guarantee that they will have to close. These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are also moving in North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Virginia.
- KANSAS: A new bill will allow the state to quarantine HIV positive individuals, something Kansas actually banned back in 1988.
- INDIANA: An anti-abortion bill was going to mandate forced ultrasounds before a woman is provided with the abortion pill. Lawmakers explain that they are dropping the controversial provision in order to focus on their real goal: regulating abortion clinics out of existence.
- VIRGINIA: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that will mandate that Virginians present photo identification when they vote, which will disproportionately impact young people, minorities, and the elderly.
- KENTUCKY: The legislature passed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals to ignore laws based on the vague notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people, among other problems. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but unfortunately his veto was overridden yesterday.
- PENNSYLVANIA: Top Republicans in the state have yet to abandon a GOP plan to rig steal the White House by rigging the distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes. Republicans in Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states dropped the idea, but Pennsylvania Republicans are keeping it on the table.
- ARKANSAS: In addition to its race to the bottom on abortion, Arkansas is considering some highly regressive tax changes. As part of an effort meant to stimulate growth, an Arkansas legislative committee passed two tax cuts that will largely benefit the rich and then rejected one that would benefit the working poor. A recent study found that state-level tax cuts don’t promote job growth.
Another week, another set of terrible proposals moving out in state legislatures.
Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed
- Rep. Steve King (R-IA) attacks Sasha and Malia Obama.
- It looks like the Defense of Marriage Act’s days are numbered.
- Another day, another misleading attack on Obamacare.
- Chief Justice says gays are already too powerful to receive equal protection.
- Universal background checks gain momentum.
- After spending millions in taxpayer funds to defend DOMA, House Republicans go quiet.
- Getting rid of DOMA will boost the economy.
- No, there wasn’t really a backlash to Roe v. Wade.
- Top conservative says marriage equality will lead to flood of immigrant polygamists.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.
— by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits some of the worst insurance industry practices that have kept affordable health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. It provides families and individuals with new protections against discriminatory rates due to pre-existing conditions, holds insurance companies accountable for how they spend your premium dollars, and prevents insurance companies from raising your insurance premium rates without accountability or transparency.
For more than a decade before the ACA health insurance premiums had risen rapidly, straining the pocketbooks of American families and businesses. Oftentimes, insurance companies were able to raise rates without explanation to consumers or public justification of their actions.
One of the provisions of the ACA is that insurance companies must now reveal the percentage of premium dollars they actually spend on health care and how much they spend on administration (e.g., salaries and marketing. Prior to ACA, this type of information was a closely held secret and insurance companies pocketed a good percentage of your premium dollars. With ACA in place, that’s no longer the case. If an insurance company spends less than 80% of premiums on medical care and quality (or less than 85% in the large employer, large group market), it must rebate the portion of premium dollars that exceeded this limit. This 80/20 rule is commonly known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule
Rate Review in Action
The ACA brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases by requiring insurance companies in every state to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10% or more. Insurance companies are required to provide easy to understand information to their customers about their reasons for significant rate increases, and any unreasonable rate increases are posted online.
And it’s working. A new report released today shows that the health care law is helping to moderate premium hikes. Since this rule was implemented, the number of requests for insurance premium increases of 10% or more has dropped dramatically, from 75% to 14%. The average premium increase for all rates in 2012 was 30% below what it was in 2010. And available data suggest that this slowdown in rate increases has continued into 2013.
Moreover, when an insurer does decide to increase rates, consumers are seeing lower rate increases than what the insurers initially requested. In the review of rate requests for 10% or more, over 50% resulted in customers receiving either a lower rate increase than requested or no increase at all.
States have received $250 million in Health Insurance Rate Review Grants to help strengthen and improve their rate review processes thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Of the 44 states that received rate review grants, 40 have reported enhancements to their rate review websites. These website enhancements include searchable rate filings, new public comment options, live streaming of rate hearings, and plain language explanations of rate review and rate filings.
The Effective Rate Review program is one of many in the health care law aimed at protecting consumers. The rate review program works in conjunction with the 80/20 rule, which requires insurance companies to generally spend 80% of premiums on health care or provide rebates to their customers. Insurance companies that did not meet the 80/20 rule have provided nearly 13 million Americans with more than $1.1 billion in rebates. Americans receiving the rebate will benefit from an average rebate of $151 per household.
Additionally, today we issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, including protection against denial of health coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This rule makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families and small businesses, and it also increases the transparency brought to rate increases by directing insurance companies in every state to file all of their rate increase requests.
For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/index.html.
- Insurance Analysts: Obamacare to Increase Out-of-Pocket Premium Costs, Despite Lavish Subsidies (Forbes, 1/12/2013)
- Proof That Obamacare ‘Rate Shock’ Is An Ugly Insurance Company Deception (Forbes, 3/26/2013)
- Obamacare to Hike Some, Lower Other Individual Health Premiums: Sebelius (Insurance Journal, 3/27/2013)
- Some health insurance premium hikes reduced (Orange County Register, 3/7/2013)
- Insurance Companies Warn of Premium Hikes (Hispanic Business.com, 3/22/2013)
- The Hidden Cost of A Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion in the PPACA (Benefits@Work, 3/24/2013)
Veena Trehan, Op-Ed: Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” explained how wives were not fulfilled by homemaking and childbearing. Woman couldn’t get credit, were fired when their pregnancy showed and held mostly assistant or teaching positions in the 1960s. We’ve come a long way. Today, women comprise 58 percent of college students, 33 percent more college graduates than men, and a strong presence in most industries. Yet, they make up only 20 percent of Congress, 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs, and 15 percent of senior executives.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735 of this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.
William Astore, Op-Ed: Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean and selective destruction. Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below. Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.
Nina Rogozen, News Report: Millions of Americans lack adequate health care, using emergency rooms as a costly alternative or getting no care at all. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” opened the door for an affordable option. The December 31, 2012 deal between Congress and the administration that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” has, at least for the moment, closed that door for 26 states. The ACA funds private, nonprofit health insurers called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—CO-OPs. It originally set aside $3.4 billion for low-interest loans—seed money for at least one health cooperative in each state, plus Washington, D.C.
Amy Goodman, Video Interview: As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives FOX news host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.
Paul Buchheit, Op-Ed: The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans. End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Institute a Financial Speculation Tax; both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.
Ian Millhiser, News Report: Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the first of two cases which could end discrimination against same-sex couples and ensure that all Americans can marry the person they love. Whatever happens in those two cases, one thing is all but certain: Justice Antonin Scalia will vote to maintain marriage discrimination and he will spend much of this week’s oral arguments making insulting comments about LGBT Americans. After the offensive things Scalia compared homosexuality to in his past opinions, Scalia concludes his Lawrence dissent with a plea that he is not in the least bit anti-gay. “Let me be clear,” Scalia writes, “that I have nothing against homosexuals.”
Yuriko Koike, Op-Ed: When the consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ten years ago are fully assessed, the importance of the subsequent rise of political Islam there—and throughout the wider Middle East—may well pale in comparison to that of a geostrategic shift that no one foresaw at the time. That shift, however, has now come into view. With America approaching energy self-sufficiency, a U.S. strategic disengagement from the region may become a reality. China’s dependence on Middle East energy imports means that it is almost certain to seek to fill any regional security vacuum.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Thanks to corporate loopholes and profit-driven manufacturers, it’s harder than ever to really know what you are putting into your body — or perhaps even more importantly the mouths of your children. That said, it is possible to make sure you’re getting what is not just labeled organic and shipped from a contaminated facility in China, but actually high quality. The fact of the matter is that the decision to switch to organic food is one that signifies a serious change in lifestyle across the board, leading to a wealth of information and serious optimizations for your health.
News Report: One month after the largest climate rally in U.S. history urging President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern segment, protesters in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. are confronting Keystone XL’s corporate backers directly. Thirty-seven have been arrested over the last 10 days for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices, with more actions planned over the next couple of days.
Robert J. Shiller, Op-Ed: With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump, it is time to admit that the trap is entirely of our own making. We have constructed it from unfortunate habits of thought about how to handle spiraling public debt. People developed these habits on the basis of the experiences of their families and friends: when in debt trouble, one must cut spending and pass through a period of austerity until the burden (debt relative to income) is reduced.
Igor Volsky, News Report: During a roundtable discussion on Friday, Fox News’ Lou Dobbs agreed with a network contributor who argued that Americans need to access military-style assault weapons to protect themselves from an Iranian invasion. “What scares the hell out of me we have a president, as we were discussing during break, that wants to take away our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration,” Angela McGlowan, a former lobbyist for News Corp., said in the midst of a conversation about violence in Syria.
Jim Lobe, News Report: Defense establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday. The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.
Michael Beckel, News Analysis: Natural gas executive James Willard Kinzer of Kentucky is one of more than 100 small business owners listed online as supporting Curtis Bostic, the former Charleston County council member who appears to have advanced to a runoff against former Gov. Mark Sanford following Tuesday’s 16-way GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. But he’s much more than that. Not only did Kinzer donate the legal maximum to Bostic’s underdog campaign, he pumped $30,000 into a pro-Bostic super PAC called the “Coastal Conservative Fund.”
Amy Goodman, Video Feature: A shocking new report has been released by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads. It’s a story that stretches from the U.S.-backed involvement in Latin America to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Amy Goodman is joined by Chief Reporter Maggie O’Kane
Dave Johnson, Op-Ed: The executives who run the giant multinationals want to be let off the hook for paying taxes on profits they make outside our borders. As an Apple executive said to The New York Times, giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.” And to prove it, American corporations are holding $1.7 trillion in profits outside the country—just sitting there—rather than bringing that money home, paying the taxes due and then paying it out to shareholders or using it to “create jobs” with new factories, research facilities and equipment.
Bill Moyers, Video Interview: Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution and growing anger from Congress and the public. Also, Richard Wolff, whose smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism the first time around now answers questions sent in by viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.
Carl Gibson, Op-Ed: Kentuckians live by the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It’s emblazoned on our flag, and shows two men, a frontiersman (Daniel Boone) and a statesman (Henry Clay) standing together. They may be standing on opposite sides of the seal, but their embrace symbolizes a spirit of cooperation and caring for your fellow man even though you may sometimes disagree with him. Yet, as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell proudly announced that his chief goal as the top Republican member was not to create jobs or help schools or look out for struggling middle class, but to deny President Obama a second term.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Whether or not the FDA chooses to approve genetically modified salmon for sale in the marketplace, supermarkets themselves have decided to take a stand in the form of a mass boycott. One that would serve to crush the profits of the unlabeled seafood abomination. In a move that signifies the growing opposition to genetically modified creations from a grassroots level all the way to corporate understanding of consumer demand, chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and others are now all reporting that they will refuse the sale of AquaBounty Technology’s modified salmon.
William Boardman, News Report: The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels—civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure. The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was undertaken in 2001.
— by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, March 21, 2013
In the three years since the Affordable Care Act became law, the slower growth of health care costs is saving money in Medicare and the private insurance market, helping to curb previously skyrocketing premiums and making Medicare stronger.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that Medicare and Medicaid spending would be 15 percent less — or about $200 billion— in 2020 than was previously projected, thanks to this slower growth. Medicare spending per beneficiary rose by just 0.4% in 2012, while Medicaid spending per beneficiary actually dropped by 1.9% last year. We are making Medicare stronger, too, by spending smarter, promoting coordinated care, and fighting fraud. Not only does this ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. It means that those who count on Medicare — our grandparents, parents, our friends, and neighbors – will have it for years to come.
Today, we are announcing that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 6.3 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved more than $6.1 billion on prescription drugs since the health care law was enacted three years ago. This is the result of the law’s closing of the prescription coverage gap known as “the donut hole.”
Nearly 3.5 million people with Medicare saved an average of more than $706 each on their prescriptions in 2012.
In the case of Helen Rayon of Pennsylvania, the savings on her medications is enough to help her contribute to the education of her grandson. She says: “I take seven different medications. Getting the donut hole closed … gives me a little more money in my pocket.”
David Lutz, a community pharmacist from Hummelstown, PA, described his elderly customers, “splitting pills, taking doses every other day, missing doses, stretching their medications.” But he says this has begun to change with the savings resulting from the Affordable Care Act, and that’s good for their health as well as their budgets.
After the law was passed, the Affordable Care Act provided a one-time $250 check for people with Medicare who reached the Part D prescription drug coverage gap in 2010. Since then, individuals in the donut hole have continued to receive savings on prescription drugs. In 2013 individuals in the donut hole are saving over 50% off of the cost of branded drugs. The savings on both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.
Along with savings on their medications, American seniors have also benefited from access to vital preventive services — such as mammograms, cholesterol checks, cancer screenings, and annual wellness visits — with no Part B coinsurance or deductibles. In 2012, more than 34 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare received at least one free preventive service. Having easier access to preventive services without worrying about the cost helps seniors stay healthier and identify health conditions before they become more serious and costly.
Helen works as a health-and-wellness coordinator at a senior center, arranging for health and fitness activities for seniors older than herself. She knows they struggle with the costs of staying healthy. “If it weren’t for the health care reform, many of our seniors would not get to a doctor,” to get a check up, Helen says. “It is expensive for us to keep good health.”
Affordable Care Act initiatives are also ensuring that if Medicare beneficiaries do end up in the hospital that their care is coordinated and they stay out of the hospital once they’re discharged. This also gives Medicare beneficiaries – and other taxpayers – more value for their health care dollars. In fact, hospital readmissions in Medicare have fallen for the first time on record, resulting in 70,000 fewer readmissions in the last half of 2012.
The Affordable Care Act is helping us keep our moral commitment to ensure that our grandparents and other seniors get the high-quality, affordable health care and security they need and deserve.
To learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is saving seniors on prescription drug costs by closing the donut hole coverage gap, visit www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/03/20130321a.html
NOTE: Today, in the U.S. House of Representatives, GOP members of that House, on a purely partisan vote, passed the Ryan Budget which, if it were to become law, would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and all of it’s provisions which help not just those folks on Medicare, but those of us who might have what the insurance industry has termed a “pre-existing condition” that they can then use to deny coverage. It would also allow insurance companies to once again impose both annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Those of you with children under 26 would no longer be able to continue to carry them on your existing health insurance policy once they reach age 18. And that’s just a few of the provisions that make a difference in ordinary Americans’ lives. Please take the time to review exactly “what” is covered under Obamacare and then help us bury Senator Heller in emails, tweets, and letters letting him know you will not forget any vote he takes to repeal this needed and necessary law by voting for Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget.