<![CDATA[WNC Health Advocates - Mom o' Mike's blog]]>Thu, 25 Dec 2014 07:56:01 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[What we're losing by not expanding Medicaid]]>Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:25:22 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/12/what-were-losing-be-not-expanding-medicaid.htmlNorth Carolina lost $2.7 billion in federal funding this year and stands to lose $3.3 billion in 2015, according to a report released today by the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University.

The report also found that 23,000 more jobs would have been created this year under an expanded Medicaid, and 29,000 next year. And these are not low-wage, menial jobs.

In all, the report says, the state' economy is about $1.7 billion smaller because of the decision to not expand Medicaid, and that caused the state to lose nearly $100 million in tax revenue.

We can expand Medicaid for 2016, but if our state legislature remains obstinate and continues its pretense that the Affordable Care Act never happened, we will lose an estimated $21 billion in federal funding between 2016 and 2020.

Refusal to expand Medicaid would lead to 43,000 fewer jobs created statewide. About half of those jobs
would be in health care. North Carolina hospitals, many of which are struggling already, will face more serious problems. Some will close.

The other half of jobs that won't be created are spread across sectors including construction, retail and wholesale,
professional/scientific/technical and food and beverage. That's because economic benefits ripple out when health care
providers buy more goods and services and as health care workers use new income to pay their mortgages, buy groceries, pay taxes and so on.

Expanding Medicaid could trigger a substantial reduction in unemployment here, which is needed since our unemployment rate exceeds the national average.

From 2016 to 2020, the potential state gross product would be $14 billion less and total business activity will be $21 billion lower if we decline expansion. Non-expansion will derail substantial economic gains that would boost the economy.

Medicaid expansion would increase state and county tax revenues without changing tax rates. But  if Medicaid is not expanded, about $860 million in potential state revenue will be lost, plus $161 million in county tax revenues from 2016 to 2020, for a combined loss of more than $1 billion. These revenues would have helped support other services, such as education and public safety.

That's just the financial cost. In human cost, the totals are even worse. As we approach the end of the year, we are grieving the lost of about 2,800 human beings who should not have died but were unable to gain access to the care they needed before it was too late.

I think often about what my child would have contributed to society had he not been killed by a broken health care system. He was on his way to law school because he wanted people in need to have a good attorney, and he would have been a damn good attorney.

He spent hours and hours each week helping people get and stay sober. How many people are not getting the help they need because he's gone?

His brother and nieces and nephew miss him terribly. He was going to teach his nephew to play guitar. Now the guitar gathers dust in the corner of my grandson's bedroom.

When we refuse to expand access to health care, we deny families and friends the presence of someone they love dearly. 

There's a lot more than money to be lost by not expanding Medicaid. But maybe the people who don't care about human lives can be swayed by the loss of money.Want to read the entire report? https://www.conehealth.com/app/files/public/4202/The-Economic-and-Employment-Costs-of-Not-Expanding-Medicaid-in-North-Carolina.pdf.


<![CDATA[So much anti-life stuff]]>Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:09:19 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/12/so-much-anti-life-stuff.htmlPictureEric Garner, who was killed by a NYPD cop.
I haven't been on here much the last few weeks because I just don't know what to say about all that's going on in our country.

African-American men are being murdered in the streets by the very people who are charged with protecting us, and they're getting away with it.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act are promising to repeal it or de-fund it to make it go away, leaving millions of people without access to health care.

We send young men and women into combat again and again and then do nothing about the horrible emotional consequences they suffer when they come home. We make them wait months, even years, for help. We allow them to become homeless  and then call them lazy bums because they can't provide for themselves.

Now we learn that our government is guilty of torture, and I don't just mean waterboarding. The report released yesterday tells of pureeing food and shooting it up victims' rectums. It says we made people stand for hours on broken legs. We put people in coffin-sized boxes for days on end. We waterboarded one man 183 times. We chained people naked to cold floors and let them freeze to death.

The people at the top didn't know about it at first, but they were informed, and no one is seriously talking about prosecuting them for their war crimes.

What kind of a country have we become when we don't care about people's lives -- unless, of course, they haven't been born yet?

Then we're all about saving those lives. Why? So they can become cannon fodder for our wars? Or perhaps so they can become free labor in our massive prison system.

This is all so immoral and I still see people defending all of it. 

Murder is murder, whether it's committed by a cop, a CIA operative or a government sending its people into an unnecessary war so profiteers can make billions.

If you think abortion is murder but you think the rest of it is OK, you are complicit. You are not pro-life.

<![CDATA[Waiting for the day when we won't need pop-up clinics]]>Mon, 01 Dec 2014 19:28:03 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/12/waiting-for-the-day-when-we-wont-need-pop-up-clinics.htmlPicture
They come by the thousands, sometimes by the tens of thousands, each seeking medical or dental care they can't get anywhere else.

Some of them have insurance but they can't afford the deductibles and co-pays, so they can't get the care they need.

These are clinics sponsored by Remote Area Medical, which was founded to help people in underdeveloped countries but now helps at least as many people in the United States.

It was a RAM clinic in Bristol, Tenn., that caught the eye of an insurance company vice president several years ago and led to his resignation from his lucrative job and his crusade to tell the truth about the American health care system.

Wendell Potter felt ashamed of the deprivation when he passed by the pop-up clinic in Bristol and the thousands of people in line, each hoping to see a doctor, nurse or dentist. Eventually, he became the best known whistle-blower in the country, writing the book, "Deadly Spin," to tell how insurance companies really operated, and how his job had been to make it look pretty.

I've met Wendell a number of times, and when we were visiting members of Congress a month before the Affordable Care Act passed, he told me the work he does now is penance for the damage he did as an insurance company executive.

The ACA has been law for four and a half years now, but these pop-up clinics are still happening across the country because so many states have refused to expand Medicaid, and even in those that have, many people still can't afford the deductibles on their policies.

The Affordable Care Act caps out-of-pocket costs at $6,600 for an individual and $13,200 for a family, but try to pay that when you make $10 an hour and you have to pay rent, utilities, food, car payments and insurance. It's impossible to scrape that much money together.

As a health care advocate, I've decided I need to do my part and volunteer as support staff for this year's clinic in Bristol, Tenn., the first weekend in May. I'll find a campground nearby where I can pitch a tent and then help people get the care they need. Maybe we can save a few lives. The least that will happen is that I'll be able to let some people know that their lives do matter to someone.

If you want to know more about Remote Area Medical, visit http://www.ramusa.org/. The page also has information on how you can volunteer or donate.

We do not have the best health care system in the world; we have one of the worst when it comes to access and outcomes. With all the wealth in this country, we shouldn't need these clinics, but as long as we do, I feel it's my job to help.

<![CDATA[We likely won't see Medicaid expansion in NC this year]]>Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:35:22 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/11/we-likely-wont-see-medicaid-expansion-in-nc-this-year.html
He doesn't look terribly sad about rejecting Medicaid.
It's all about ideology, not about human life.

Gov. Pat McCrory has been making noises like he might want to expand Medicaid this year because the state is losing so much money and one hospital has closed already and blah, blah, blah.

McCrory has no plans to expand Medicaid, and he knows Senate leader Phil Berger won't let it happen.

McCrory would like to paint himself as a moderate, although he seemed very happy to sign the law killing Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. In fact, it was one of the first things he did as governor.

The law states that only the General Assembly has the authority to expand Medicaid, so if McCrory wants to play the moderate, Phil Berger can play the bad guy and refuse to even consider expansion.

Berger has said already he has no intention of expanding Medicaid, so the "moderate" McCrory can say, "Aw, please?" and get a firm "No!" Then he can throw up his hands and claim to have tried.

Don't be fooled. These people care nothing for the lives that are being lost every day; if they did care, they would do something. They would rather "ennoble" the poor by letting them go hungry and without medical care.

With open enrollment going on again, I am getting calls from people who are desperate for care but they're not eligible to shop in the marketplace because they live below the federal poverty level.

I get calls asking whether they should fudge their income so they can buy coverage. I can't advise them to do that because it's illegal.

What's happening to the poor in this state ought to be illegal, but the wealthy and powerful make the laws and they give themselves the advantage under those laws.

I don't believe McCrory when he says he would like to expand Medicaid because I know he's powerless to do so, and that allows him to feign compassion. If he had real compassion, he would have vetoed the law, even though the NC General Assembly would have over-ridden the veto. In the photo taken when he signed the law, he didn't look the least bit upset about that this law would do to people in need or about the 2,800 lives it would cost every year.

We rejected most of the candidates in the recent election who would have voted to expand Medicaid. It appears to have been apathy on the part of voters, and I have to ask myself whether people are even able to get outraged any more.

<![CDATA[The ripple effect]]>Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:53:13 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/11/the-ripple-effect.htmlPicture
This is a hard time of year for me. I struggle to stay afloat as Mike's and my birthday passes. I know it wouldn't be possible without the help of my friends.

This year, once again, LisaRose Barnes spent the day with me. The fun included a drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway where she and I sang "Happy Birthday." She sang it to Mike and I sang it to me, just as Mike and I used to do.

Liz Huesemann and my husband met us for dinner at Mela, which has become tradition since Mike died. I wear my tiara and hold court.

It all distracts me from how much I miss my son. 

But the distraction doesn't last long. I think of him every day. I miss him constantly.

Sometimes, though, he reaches out and touches me in surprising ways through the ripples that his life created.

Recently, my son Danny needed support. Mine wasn't really enough, since Mom has to be there, no matter what, and Mom always loves you no matter what kind of decisions you make.

He came to visit a couple weeks ago and told my one of Mike's friends called to see if he could help.

"Guy named Joey," Danny said. "Really centered and sensible."

Rob and I looked at each other.

"Joey No-Days?" we asked.

"No," Danny said. "Couldn't be. This guy has been sober a long time and he's really got it right."

So, the next time they spoke, Danny asked whether he had ever been known as Joey No-Days.

Indeed, he had. He was called that because he couldn't seem to get to his one-year sobriety anniversary without screwing up.

Then one night, really late, he knocked on Mike's door.

"I want to do this," he said. "I can't do it alone."

That was the key, of course. No one can do it alone. Mike worked with him, helping him through the 12 steps, even though he was terminally ill.

Joey No-Days got his one-year chip the day of Mike's memorial service, which he couldn't attend because his own grandfather had died.

"We'll have to give him a new nickname, Mike's friend, James, said. "But Joey One-Year doesn't sound as funny, does it?"

Others have called Danny, too. People Mike helped get their own feet under them. Like Elliott, the chef and Daniel, Christian ...

I hear that Mike is still quoted often in the rooms, more than six years after his death. His words still offer comfort and strength.

The ripples reach out and encircle us, reminding us that Mike's love and wisdom are never-ending

<![CDATA[Happy birthday to my son]]>Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:54:24 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/10/happy-birthday-to-my-son.htmlPicture
Forty-two years ago today, I gave birth to this handsome dude (who later fathered this gorgeous graduate).

We've had our differences, but he is a good and honorable man. 

His brother's death hit him hard, and he once wondered aloud whether legislators who would deny others access to health care might change their tunes if their own access was cut off.

He's fortunate in that he's always had access to care, even though he's had to battle with the insurance company now and again to get what he needs. 

Until Mike got sick, Danny believed the Emergency Room would provide people with the care they needed. But as it turned out, the ER only has to stabilize people, so Mike was sent home with laxatives when his problem was a malignant tumor blocking his colon, and he died from lack of access to care.

What's also been hard on Danny and on his kids is how I changed after Mike died. I wasn't the silly Grandma I had been. All I could think about was getting people access to health care. Danny has done his best to understand and to explain to the kids that I talk about Mike a lot because memories is all I have of him.

I can't go back to who I was before Mike died, and that robs my son and his children of the person I used to be.

I worry a lot about whether health care will be available to Danny and his family. I know the Affordable Care Act has offered access to millions of people, but not to everyone.

Anyway, I just wanted to let people know I'm thankful for the son I

<![CDATA[With access to care, Ebola victim might have been saved]]>Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:31:54 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/10/with-access-to-care-ebola-victim-might-have-been-saved.htmlThe United States is the only industrialized nation in the world where a man with Ebola could walk into a hospital and be sent on his way.

You see, Thomas Eric Duncan showed up at a hospital in Dallas alone, uninsured, foreign and black. The staff there figured he had the flu and sent him home. Had he been insured, the story might have had a different ending.

Not only did the patient get his treatment delayed, he endangered everyone in the community because he was so sick.

In other countries, he would have been taken into the hospital the first time he showed up sick; here, the nurses could turn him away saying it was just a case of the flu. He got some antibiotics and Tylenol.

Two days later, he was back, this time in an ambulance (meaning the EMTs were exposed unnecessarily), and he was finally admitted; two days after that, he was finally diagnosed. Eight days later, he died.

How many people came in contact with this man between the time he should have been admitted to the hospital and the time he actually was?

In case you think health care shouldn't be made available to everyone, you might want to rethink your position. Hundreds of people could have been exposed to Ebola because this man was out and about. Family, friends, neighbors, anyone who came in contact with him, since he was spewing bodily fluids from both ends.

This exposure was entirely unnecessary. His nephew told reporters today that he believes his uncle was sent away because he was black and uninsured. I think it was a little less about race and a little more about greed -- the man couldn't pay, so he gets turned out to fend for himself. The fact  that he was black was less of an issue than his ability to pay for treatment.

Duncan told the hospital staff he had been in Liberia, but they sent him out anyway. If we'd had universal access to health care, he would have been admitted immediately.

As long as this is the case -- that ANYONE can be turned away from medical treatment for any reason whatsoever, we place ourselves in danger. 
If this case isn't evidence for the need for universal access to care, I don't know what is.

<![CDATA[Public health DOES matter]]>Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:03:27 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/10/public-health-does-matter.htmlPicture
 The National Institutes of Health has had no increases in funding since 2004, as we Americans insist on voting for people who pledge to make cuts and more cuts to government, claiming it can do nothing right.

Well, there is one thing the government does better than any other entity and that's public health. No other entity can do it the way government does because government can make and enforce regulations such as the level of contaminants in foods and drinking water.

Government also pays for most of the research we need on diseases and for the development of vaccines.

A government-run public health system can prevent the spread of serious illnesses such as cholera, yellow fever and Ebola -- but only if a public health system is fully funded.

When you cut funding for research, we slow the development of vaccines and drugs that can help cure Ebola. We might have a vaccine by now if funding for research hadn't been cut, and that statement comes from officials at the National Institutes of Health, which does the research.

When you cut funding for public health and preparedness, you compromise the ability to fight outbreaks of deadly diseases. 

When someone with Ebola shows up in an emergency room, the response has to become local, but local health departments are part of the entire public health system that's been cut and cut and cut. 

Nurses across the country are begging for training in prevention protocol and are being given a sheet of paper to read or a video to watch because we don't have the personnel to get out there and give them hands-on training. It's really no wonder we have a case of a nurse coming down with Ebola because of a "breach of protocol." People aren't getting the training they need in protocol.

And as people call for an "Ebola Czar"  to deal with this crisis, it's important to remember that a surgeon general would do that job if we had one. A qualified candidate exists, but his nomination is being stalled in the Senate because he spoke out about guns being a public health problem. That's all it took for the NRA to marshal its forces in Congress to block his appointment.

Right now, we're being told about 4,500 people have died from this Ebola outbreak, but the World Health Organization also tells us there's such chaos in the affected areas that an accurate count of how many people are infected, exposed, sick or dead is impossible.

Some people are afraid to go for treatment so they stay in their villages and infect others. The response has been slow and inadequate, which puts the world at risk.

The World Health Organization says the death rate is about 70 percent of people who get sick from Ebola, and we could start seeing up to 10,000 new cases every week if we don't step up our response and work to contain this outbreak.

We need more personnel, we need to increase funding for disease preparedness so we can train nurses in proper containment protocol, we need to allow this surgeon general nominee to start work.

In the case of Ebola, funding cuts and political posturing will be fatal.


<![CDATA[Mamas, don't let your boys play football.]]>Fri, 03 Oct 2014 17:23:42 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/10/mamas-dont-let-your-boys-play-football.htmlPicture
Back when cigarettes were considered "safe," companies that made them insisted there was no cause for worry, even though they knew nicotine was addictive and that smoking causes various cancers, emphysema and a ton of other ailments.

Even into the 1980s, tobacco company executives were testifying before Congress, "No sir, I don't believe nicotine is addictive." I remember watching that on television after my father had been diagnosed with COPD from smoking and wishing that executive would land in jail for perjury.

It appears much the same thing is happening with football today. It's becoming increasingly obvious that football players are far, far more likely to get a form of brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Yesterday, the nation's leading investigator of football-related brain injury released a new report that found 78 of 79 brains of deceased football players examined by researchers showed signs of the condition. CTE increases tau proteins in the brain, which show up as brown spots in scans. In the photo above, three samples compare the levels of tau proteins in the brain. On the left, a sample from someone who didn't play football; in the center, a football player, and on the right, a boxer.

People who have CTE can have symptoms such as depression, impaired judgment, sudden and unpredictable outbursts of violent anger, dementia and pain. Several have committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest and have left notes requesting that their brains be examined for CTE.

All told, researchers at the Boston University CTE Center have examined the brains of 128 people who played football at all levels, from high school to the pros, and 101 showed evidence of CTE. 

Still NFL and NCAA officials denied the problem, much the same as tobacco companies did into the 1980s. Recently, though, the NFL reached a settlement that likely will cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, and the NCAA will pay out $70 million in a settlement reached in July.

And younger players are not immune from danger. In just a week's time, three high school football players have died, two from injuries sustained in games and one, apparently from a blood clot.

This is not a harmless game. It is, in fact. violent and dangerous. 

I'm not certain where we should go next. Some people may think it's OK for adults who understand what could happen to them to play football, but what about high school kids? And how do you feed players into the NFL without high school and college football?

In too many places, football is more important to school districts than academics. You rarely see cheerleaders fawning over the captain of the debate team or the president of the chess club. But school budgets fat with money for a new athletic field rarely have trouble passing.

I have to admit I have enjoyed watching football since I was in high school, but perhaps it's time to turn away. The evidence of its danger and the pain it causes its participants and their families is just too strong.

<![CDATA[Good news on enrollment]]>Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:31:33 GMThttp://wnchealthadvocates.org/1/post/2014/09/good-news-on-enrollment.htmlMore than 90 percent of people who enrolled in insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces are paying their premiums and getting their coverage.

About 8 million people enrolled and 7.3 million are still insured, according to Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As enrollment crept up, opponents of the ACA insisted problems would arise when millions of enrollees didn't pay the bill.
So, while 9 percent of enrollees have dropped their coverage, Tavenner said some have been able to get coverage through work and some have discovered they are eligible for Medicaid. She did not have numbers for those who are still covered and those who lapsed into uninsured status.

What's more, a new report from the Commonwealth Fund shows that more than two-thirds of adults with low or moderate incomes paid less than $125 a month for coverage, about what people in the same income range paid through employer plans. Deductibles and co-pays were also in the same range as employer plans.

The marketplaces are getting easier to negotiate as well, with 46 percent of shoppers saying it was easy to find a plan with the coverage they were looking for, up from 30 percent last October.

Forbes Magazine's Rick Unger, in a column titled,"... Let the Crow-Eating Begin," written in March,  points out that the predicted rush by employers to cut workers' hours has not materialized. In fact, part-time employment has fallen by 300,000.

"(I)n the past year alone—the time period in which the nation was approaching the start date for Obamacare—full-time employment grew by over 2 million while part-time employment declined by 230,000," Unger wrote in March.

Other studies showed more people choosing to work part-time, since they didn't have to stay in a full-time job just to have health insurance.

All this is good news for the consumer -- affordable coverage, rates that aren't skyrocketing (especially true in states that are expanding Medicaid), an increasingly consumer-friendly marketplace -- and bad news for those who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

As time goes on, we will see more of the opponents' myths debunked and more Americans happy with the Affordable Care Act.]]>