Here’s What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

HHS

— by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HHS Secretary

If you’ve read the headlines over the past few months, you’ve probably heard about the Zika virus. You might wonder how serious the virus is and what steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

HHS is committed to giving the American people the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives. And information can often be one of the best tools. So I want to share with you some of the things we have learned about this virus, and what you should know.

mosquito-580pxWhat is Zika?


Zika is a virus
that is primarily spread by mosquitoes, though it can also be sexually transmitted. As of July 20, there have been 5,200 cases of Zika in the United States and its territories.

The biggest risk of Zika is to pregnant women or women of childbearing age. Zika virus can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika can cause symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. An illness from Zika is usually mild, and the symptoms typically will only last several days to a week. Based on previous outbreaks, approximately 80 percent of people who have Zika will not have any symptoms.

How Do I Prevent Getting Zika?

Our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have laid out helpful prevention guidance, which you can find right here. This is particularly important if you travel to an area with active Zika transmission. It is important to remember to follow the guidance not only when you are in an area with active Zika transmission, but also for three weeks after you return.

Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If you’re pregnant and you have traveled to an area with Zika, you should visit your doctor or other health care provider as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel sick. This checklist offers some topics and questions you should bring up.

Another way you can prevent Zika is by preventing the most common way Zika spreads – mosquito bites. You can reduce your risk of being bitten by:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, and long pants when outside.
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents.
  • Installing screens on your windows and doors.
  • Emptying containers that collect water, or notifying the proper authorities if you see places where water has collected. The most common type of mosquito that spreads Zika can reproduce in as little water as a bottle cap.

CDC’s Response to Zika. Prevent Zika. (1) Cover up and use insect repellent. (2) Remove standing water. (3) Keep mosquitoes out of your home. (4) Use condoms. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/zika.

What Is All This Talk About Funding?

Back in February, the Obama Administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight Zika and protect pregnant women. It was a request based on the advice of our most experienced public health experts.

These funds would be used to protect pregnant women in the United States by better controlling the mosquitoes that spread Zika, by developing new tools like vaccines and better diagnostics, and by conducting crucial research so we can better understand the effects of Zika, especially on infants and children.

Congress recently left Washington without providing these additional funds. At HHS, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to this virus here in the United States, and especially in hard-hit places like Puerto Rico, but hope there is action on this necessary funding as soon as the Congress returns.

How Can I Help?

We are always stronger against public health threats when we work together. So the best thing you can do right now is to make sure more people get more information on the Zika virus.

Help us reach others by sharing this blog post on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “Share” button in the top right corner of this post, or click the “Tweet This” button at the bottom.

And share this information with your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Make sure that everyone knows the risks, and how to stay safe.

New FAQ’s on Birth Control Coverage

birth-control-pillsThis week the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Treasury issued frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help insurance companies better understand the scope of coverage that is required (including contraceptive care) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to help people better the ACA and benefit from it as intended.

This guidance follows recent Kaiser Family Foundation  and research that reported variation in how the ACA contraceptive coverage provisions were being interpreted and implemented by health plans.

Some main points of interest:

  • All non-grandfathered plans and insurers must cover, without cost sharing, at least one form of contraception within each of the 18 methods of contraception that the FDA has identified for women.
  • If an item or service is not covered but is determined medically necessary by the woman’s attending provider, there must be an easily accessible process for the woman to get that item or service;
  • If an insurer covers dependent children, recommended preventive services for women (such as preconception and prenatal care) must be covered for the dependent children as well (i.e., not just the parent(s) on the plan); and

Clarifies that insurance companies may still use reasonable medical management techniques within each of the methods of contraception (there are currently 18 identified by the FDA for women). For example, a plan can discourage the use of brand name over generic pharmacy items through cost sharing.

Health Insurance Exchange Marketplace Opens Tomorrow

Consumers  and Small Business Owners can sign up for health plans for the first time, renew or change their plans for 2015 on HealthCare.gov [or https://www.nevadahealthlink.com/ in Nevada]; more plans are available this year

HealthcareInsuranceStarting tomorrow, consumers can sign up for 2015 health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov, the call center, or in-person assistance. With more issuers offering coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace this year, the consumers will find more options for themselves and their families.

“When Open Enrollment begins tomorrow, consumers who are renewing their coverage or signing up for the first time will have an opportunity to obtain quality health coverage at a price they can afford,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether consumers visit the simpler, faster and more intuitive HealthCare.gov or contact the call center, they’re going to find more choices and competitive prices.”

The Health Insurance Marketplace is a simpler way to purchase health insurance for Americans and their families. Consumers can go online to find and compare options, see if they qualify for lower costs, and select coverage that best meets their needs and budget. About 85 percent of those who signed up last year through the Marketplace received financial assistance. Coverage begins as early as January 1, 2015 for people enrolling by December 15, 2014. Tomorrow, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is launching an education and outreach campaign in communities nationwide to drive both the uninsured and current enrollees to enroll in coverage or renew their coverage. Enrollment events will take place in local communities including in public libraries, churches, festivals, sports events, and community meetings.

“Tomorrow marks the beginning of an intense open enrollment and public education campaign for the Marketplace,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “We want consumers to visit the Marketplace, compare their options, see if they qualify for lower costs, and reenroll or get new coverage that best meets their needs and budget.”

CMS has worked to improve the consumer experience by making the application process easier. A window shopping tool allows consumers to answer a few simple questions, such as location and family size, in order to compare plans and get an estimate on how much financial assistance they may qualify for, without needing a log-in or submitting an application.

For most consumers who are renewing coverage, up to 90 percent of their application will be pre-filled based on last year’s application. And a new streamlined application reduces the number of screens to 16 with fewer clicks to navigate through the questions for most consumers signing up for the first time. Last year, consumers went through 76 screens to sign up for coverage. This year, along with a simpler, faster application, consumers can shop and enroll on a smartphone, tablet, computer, or by calling the call center or with in-person assistance.

Tomorrow, Secretary Burwell will participate in an enrollment event at the Evergreen Health Center in Manassas, Virginia with local consumers and Certified Application Counselors who are helping consumers enroll.

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins tomorrow, Nov. 15, 2014, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options and find out if they are eligible for financial assistance, which can help pay monthly premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs when receiving services. All consumers shopping for health insurance coverage for 2015— even those who currently have coverage through the Marketplace — should enroll or re-enroll between November 15 and December 15 in order to have coverage effective on Jan. 1, 2015.

A number of different resources are available to help consumers find Marketplace coverage. They can get more information through HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Assistance is available in 150 languages. The call is free.

The Marketplace includes a Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP), designed to give small businesses new health insurance options and a simpler way to cover their employees. The SHOP is available to small employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. Starting tomorrow, November 15, 2014, the SHOP Marketplace will allow qualifying employers to find, compare, purchase, and enroll in 2015 SHOP health and dental coverage entirely online through HealthCare.gov. Employees will be able to view offers of insurance from their employer and enroll online through HealthCare.gov. Small businesses and their employees can get help from the toll-free SHOP Marketplace call center at 1-800-706-7893 or for TTY, call 711. The hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.

To sign up for individual and family coverage, visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/apply-and-enroll/

To sign up for small business coverage, visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/

For more information about Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit: www.healthcare.gov/marketplace


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Dept. of Health & Human Services

04/03/2014

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

Read more about today’s announcement here …

The ACA Has Spurred The Largest Expansion In Health Coverage In America In Half A Century

Yesterday marked the last day of the six-month open enrollment period for people to get insurance coverage through the state and federal marketplaces. Despite technical challenges and staunch ideological opposition, it has already been a huge success with over six million people enrolling. But in the last several days, the interest in signing up and the outreach efforts to those not yet covered has reached new heights.

Take a look at the final surge by the numbers:

  • 9.5 Million: Number Of Uninsured That Now Have Insurance Thanks To The ACA. A new analysis of enrollment data has found that almost ten million people who were previously without health insurance now are covered. The report estimates that two million have enrolled in private coverage on the new marketplaces; about 4.5 million previously uninsured people have gained public coverage through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion; and about three million previously uninsured young people are now covered on their parents’ insurance plans. The law, as written by the Los Angeles Times, “has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century.”
  • 10 million: Number Of Visits To Heathcare.gov In The Past Week. The Washington Post tallied 8.7 million in the past week through Monday morning, with 2 million visiting this weekend alone. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services tweeted that there had been another 1.2 million visitors just by noon–”record volume.”
  • 125,000: The Number Of Concurrent Users On Healthcare.gov On Monday. An unprecedented level of traffic on the website has led to an unprecedented number of people using the site to sign up for health insurance.
  • 4,000: Number Of Grassroots Events To Help People Enroll In March. For all the money spent over the airwaves, grassroots organizing was a huge component of outreach efforts to get people signed up for coverage. Events took place all over the country, with a focus on reaching the uninsured to make sure they had the information they needed to enroll.
  • 300: Number of Radio Interviews Administration Officials Have Given In The Past Six Weeks. While there have been enormous efforts to use new media to promote the law, good old-fashioned radio has been a go-to source for top White House officials: from Chief-of-Staff Denis McDonough and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to President Obama himself.
  • 49 Percent: Public Support For The ACA. According to a ABC News/Washington Post poll out today, support for the law is at 49 percent, its highest level in months. Back in November, just 40 percent supported and 57 percent opposed the law; today the picture looks much different:

BOTTOM LINE: If there’s any indication that the Affordable Care Act is in high demand, this is it. The law is working, it’s here to stay, and it’s delivering on its promise to provide quality, affordable health coverage that will be there when consumers need it most. Conservatives will continue their repeal-at-all-costs agenda, but the success of these past six months will make it harder because people do not want to go back to the way it was.


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.