Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News, Commentary and Blog posts from the Independent Women's Foundation.(...)IWF RSS's infantilizing of young adults is complete<p> A recent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">CNN/Kaiser Health News story</a>&nbsp;about a handful of young adults facing hardship under the Affordable Care Act paints a bleak picture: People old enough to smoke, vote, get married, fight in the military, drink, and even drive rental cars &hellip; cannot navigate health insurance.</p> <p> Sure, health insurance is complicated. Wasn&rsquo;t simplifying it one of the goals of the ACA in the first place? Wouldn&rsquo;t the exchanges, or &ldquo;marketplaces&rdquo; if you prefer the Orwellian name, become the of shopping for health insurance?</p> <p> Add this to the long list of the law&rsquo;s broken promises, right after higher premiums, canceled plans, smaller networks, and higher out-of-pocket costs. The world of health insurance has&nbsp;<em>not</em>&nbsp;become a more simplified place. Instead, a web of government programs, subsidies, and taxes hovers over the already-confusing sector.</p> <p> <em>Washington Examiner</em>&nbsp;(and Steamboat Institute) colleague Tom Rogan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">has already explained</a>&nbsp;the cause of young adults&rsquo; ACA troubles, namely the rules requiring over-standardized insurance plans that subsidize the costs of older patients at the expense of the young. Mix this together with an ineffective individual mandate, and you&rsquo;ve got a recipe for youth flight, imbalanced pools, and eventually, a death spiral.</p> <p> On top of that, the so-called age-26 rule &ndash; so frequently credited as a benefit to young adults &ndash; has actually contributed to the high costs American youth face once they are on their own: If the few million young adults squatting as dependents on their parents&#39; plan would instead shop for insurance on their own, this alone would bring an influx of mostly healthy, mostly low-claims insurance consumers, leading to lower prices across the board.</p> <p> But we shouldn&rsquo;t miss the cultural effects of the ACA on young people either &ndash; it&rsquo;s not just the headaches of high costs. Culturally, the ACA sends the message that 25-year-old adult &ldquo;children&rdquo; (an oxymoron) should stay on their parents&rsquo; insurance.</p> <p> In a time when more young adults&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">than any time in recent history</a>are living with their parents, suffering from student-loan debt, and struggling to find solid jobs and form families of their own, I&rsquo;m sure the age-26 rule was intended as a response to these new realities. But it&rsquo;s fueled another problem: More and more young people are ignorant about health insurance because it&rsquo;s not their responsibility. Why worry about it if you don&rsquo;t have to buy it yourself? Then, wham! You turn 26, and you&rsquo;re thrown into a market you may not understand.</p> <p> Of course, the young adults featured in the CNN story are the lucky ones: They have parents with insurance who allowed them to stay on their plans through the maximum age. This isn&rsquo;t always the case. Many young adults have uninsured parents, or for some other reason, can&rsquo;t take advantage of the family plan.</p> <p> My parents let me know &ndash; at age 22 when I took my first job &ndash; that I would take over a few bills they&rsquo;d paid for me during college, including car insurance and health insurance. At first, this was intimidating. I didn&rsquo;t know how to shop for any type of insurance, and I had to learn about deductibles, networks, coverage, and copays.</p> <p> This was before the Affordable Care Act, of course. There wasn&rsquo;t a at the time, but there was a health insurance equivalent that was just getting started: I shopped, compared plans, and ultimately purchased coverage there. The private sector was well on its way to making shopping for insurance easier to understand and navigate. My premium was less than $100 per month. My deductible was modest, about $2,700. And I opted out of maternity coverage to save money.</p> <p> I got&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">burned badly, of course</a>, when the ACA became effective (2014). Like millions of other people, I got a cancellation notice in the mail. I was referred to to buy a compliant plan, for about three times the premium (similar deductible). And of course, the user experience on was, as they say, only &ldquo;good enough for government work,&rdquo; a shoddy replacement for private sector prototypes.</p> <p> It shouldn&#39;t have to be this way. Young adults are capable of finding and purchasing their own insurance plans &ndash; or at least they once were. More of them would do so if the goods offered weren&rsquo;t over-priced and over-standardized, by an antiquated, user-unfriendly government website portal.</p> <p> Our generation has been spoiled with ever-more-customizable goods, services, and experiences. The Affordable Care Act made this kind of innovation impossible in health insurance, and worse, it told a generation that it was unable to be self-sufficient. Ultimately this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.</p> HeathFri, 15 Dec 2017 10:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBad News: Consolidation in Health Care<p> The Washington Post recently highlighted a &quot;<a href="">land grab</a>&quot; or turf war, as I might call it, in health care. This is part of a larger trend in health care: There are fewer payors (health insurance companies) and fewer providers (places to actually get health care). It&#39;s not new news, but it&#39;s still bad news.&nbsp;</p> <p> You may have noticed a huge shift in the physician workforce over the past couple of decades. From 2000 to 2012, the number of doctors working for hospitals (as opposed to working for themselves or in small practices) increased by a third. And the Affordable Care Act, which mostly came into effect in 2014, has also <a href="">facilitated this trend</a> by putting financial incentives in place that favor consolidation over independence and running down small practices with administrative burdens too big to bear.&nbsp;</p> <p> The death of private practice, as well as large hospital mergers, come with a serious downside for doctors who will now have less autonomy and ownership over their work. But the bigger downside may actually be for patients, who have fewer competing institutions offering care.&nbsp;</p> <p> Those in favor of big data, big government, and big hospitals might argue that the economies of scale and &quot;negotiating power&quot; of larger health providers will result in lower costs and greater efficiencies, which will ultimately be passed along to patients. But this isn&#39;t proving to be true, perhaps because patients don&#39;t directly pay for very much in health care. The pipeline of payment includes a lot of third parties. Or perhaps savings aren&#39;t passed along to patients because they&#39;re used to pay for an expand workforce in healthcare administration, a lot of which is needed to direct large hospitals.&nbsp;</p> <p> This isn&#39;t to be unfairly critical of big hospitals: Of course there&#39;s a place for them in our healthcare ecosystem. They can do great good. But the trouble comes with they start to gobble up all the other options for patients that can offer more individualized and diverse treatment options.&nbsp;</p> <p> And then on the other side of the &quot;negotiations&quot; mentioned above, we don&#39;t actually see patients, because patients aren&#39;t really the primary payors in our health system. The insurance companies -- and of course big programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- are the payors. And these big companies (those that have survived several years of the Affordable Care Act) are only getting bigger as well through mergers and acquisitions and the folding of smaller insurance carriers. So we have consolidation on all sides.</p> <p> It&#39;s a sad situation when patients are left out of the discussion -- when the real power struggle is among big providers and insurers. How do we restore power to the individual patient? Well, one thing&#39;s for sure: we need to reverse course to allow greater freedom and more robust competition so that the market responds to the choices that patients make. Right now most patients have little choice: We accept the plan chosen by our employer and narrowly dictated by government bureaucrats. The network comes with the plan, so we see the providers who are in-network. If we don&#39;t like the service we&#39;re getting, we can&#39;t threaten to go across the street to the competing hospital. That&#39;s what we&#39;d do if it were a hotel, restaurant, or department store. But that&#39;s not how health care works, because sadly, our lawmakers have not allowed the industry to operate as a competitive marketplace.&nbsp;</p> <p> You gotta wonder sometimes if this bad trend of consolidation will just make it easier for those in support of government-run health care to take over the industry. The players who&#39;ve stuck around, in health insurance anyway, could easily be contracted by the government to simply manage the Medicaid-for-all we are frequently promised by the far left. Let&#39;s hope that&#39;s not the case. Even a few options are better than... just one.</p> HeathThu, 14 Dec 2017 17:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum#MeToo isn’t the right answer to sexual misconduct<p> This fall the #MeToo movement sought to highlight the ubiquity of sexual mistreatment by encouraging victims, mostly women, to speak up. Some women shared harrowing accounts of violent assault. Others recounted workplace harassment or unfairness. Still others, perhaps unready to share details of their experiences, simply posted the hashtag &ldquo;MeToo&rdquo; on social media.</p> <p> No victim of sexual assault or harassment should suffer in silence. Violations of this kind should never be tolerated, and we can celebrate that the proverbial opening of the floodgates might help victims find solidarity and cope with their experiences, and ultimately, increased attention to this issue could spark needed change.</p> <p> However, the #MeToo movement comes with real risks, and women and men alike should take them seriously. Rather than a movement that paints these terrible interactions as commonplace, we need a different focus that fosters positive relationships between the sexes and condemns bad individual actions rather than society as a whole.</p> <p> The hashtag-ization of sexual misconduct may support unfair narratives that depict all men as potential predators, or all women as potential accusers. This threatens to drive a wedge between men and women, both inside and outside of the workplace.</p> <p> As Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a lengthy Facebook post, men may be inclined to respond to #MeToo by playing it overly safe: They may not want to offer mentorships to junior women staffers, for fear that an awkward interaction could lead to accusations of harassment. This could potentially have serious effects, given how in many traditionally male-dominated industries, entry-level women have few options for same-sex mentors.</p> <p> It is often &ldquo;soft&rdquo; networking interactions, like lunch, coffee or happy hour, where co-workers develop social capital. Will #MeToo cause a de facto sexual segregation to the detriment of women? This has implications not just for the workplace, but for the romantic realm as well.</p> <p> Another shortcoming of #MeToo: Lumping together all varying degrees of bad interactions &mdash; from violent assault to off-putting jokes &mdash; risks watering down the most heinous of crimes. When sexual misconduct is everywhere, it&rsquo;s nowhere. We do not want anyone to shrug off sexual misconduct or see it as an unfixable problem.</p> <p> Misrepresenting the prevalence or nature of inappropriate behavior can harm victims both past and future, as our current conversations shape cultural expectations for men. We should be clear that the expectations for men in our culture are high, not low: Virtue is expected. Misdeeds will be shamed.</p> <p> The pendulum of social justice can swing too far. If we&rsquo;ve failed to believe victims in the past, we could overcorrect and fail to honor due process for the accused in the future. Accusations of sexual assault or harassment should be taken seriously &mdash; seriously enough to be investigated and litigated.</p> <p> Many accusations are true, but sadly, we&rsquo;ve seen high-profile stories of assault turn out to be false (for example, the Duke lacrosse case in 2006 and the Rolling Stone &ldquo;Jackie&rdquo; article about University of Virginia Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in 2015). False accusations not only unfairly defame the accused but also cast a shadow of doubt on all victims. This is terribly wrong, but it is a reminder to soberly assess the facts in each case.</p> <p> The #MeToo campaign carries yet one more risk, a political one: It could become co-opted by a left-leaning agenda that seeks to paint all women as victims in society. The goal of this political strategy is to confound the real abuse of individual women victims with other phenomena, from &ldquo;rape culture&rdquo; even to issues like the gender wage gap or a lack of government-mandated maternity leave. Those who are truly interested in combatting sexual mistreatment should guard against the politicization of their movement and the blurring of these lines.</p> <p> Margaret Thatcher said, &ldquo;There is no such thing as society. There are men and women, and there are families.&rdquo; The focus on so-called rape culture risks moving responsibility away from individuals onto a faceless &ldquo;society.&rdquo; We should resist this, instead taking and placing specific individual responsibility for words and actions. In other words, it is not rape culture that is to blame, but the rapist.</p> <p> As we give victims of sexual mistreatment the respect and platform they deserve, we should keep in mind the needed balance that also honors the rights of the accused. We should invite all &mdash; men, women, liberals and conservatives &mdash; to work toward a healthier future, without painting an overly dark picture of the present.</p> HeathThu, 14 Dec 2017 09:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPromises of ObamaCare too costly for many<p> <strong>You could call them the &quot;forgotten faces&quot; of Obamacare: Americans who are by no means wealthy but earn too much to receive a tax credit that would help them pay for federally-mandated insurance.</strong></p> <p> According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 15 million people bought ACA-compliant individual insurance for 2017. Nearly half of them, however, received no tax credit help.</p> <p> Meanwhile, the uninsured rate among adults who make too much to qualify for help buying coverage increased to five percent from two percent in 2016.</p> <p> And next year may be no different.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">If you ask Hadley Heath Manning of the&nbsp;</span></span><a href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Independent Women&#39;s Forum</span></span></a><span style="color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&nbsp;(IWF), this group of people has had the roughest time under the Affordable Care Act.</span></span></strong></span></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;They didn&#39;t really have a walk in the park before the Affordable Care Act because our health insurance markets in the United States are largely centered around those large group plans that many employers provide,&quot; Manning tells OneNewsNow. &quot;If you don&#39;t have one of those you&#39;re effectively on your own, and if you earn too much money to get a subsidy under the ACA, you face some of the highest prices for health insurance.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> For an individual making $48,000 or more, that can be expensive. That is the cutoff income for tax credits. The cutoff is $98,000 for a family of four.</p> <p> In a realted&nbsp;<em>Associated Press</em>&nbsp;story, the reporter described how Margaret Leatherwood of Bryson, Texas had eight choices for health insurance in 2018. But the cheapest individual coverage in her market would eat up nearly a quarter of the income her husband brings home from the oilfields.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;I was so glad to see the&nbsp;</span><em><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Associated Press</span></em><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&nbsp;cover this,&quot; Manning says, &quot;because too often we do get a skewed picture of the ACA pointing to the Medicaid expansion, the insurance numbers in total, the number of people who benefit from subsidies and tax credits, without so much focus on the cost.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> HeathWed, 13 Dec 2017 15:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumMaking Prescription Drugs More Affordable -- The Wrong Way to Do It<p> More than 7 in 10 Americans take prescription drugs; drugs are clearly an important part of American health care.&nbsp;</p> <p> However, we often hear stories in the news about people who struggle to pay for very expensive drugs, and given how critical drugs can be for saving and improving lives, we all want them to be accessible.&nbsp;</p> <p> A new report published in the <a href="">National Academy of Sciences</a> (NAS) dives into the issue of drug affordability and makes some recommendations for how to ensure access to affordable drugs.</p> <p> Unfortunately, the report gets it wrong on some of the root-cause reasons that drugs in the United States are costly, assuming that the main driver of high cost is that pharmaceutical companies are looking to widen profit margins at the expense of poor, sick patients.</p> <p> There&#39;s nothing wrong with for-profit companies seeking a profit, but this overly simplified narrative ignores the complexity of the drug ecosystem, which involves many players, from the government to insurance companies to benefit managers and so on. There are many reasons why drugs are expensive.&nbsp;</p> <p> For example, there&#39;s a very high cost to researching and developing new drugs -- costs that companies try to recoup during the initial introduction of drugs under a patent. Calling patents &quot;legal monopolies,&quot; the NAS report misunderstands how critical patent protections are (not just in the drug industry, but as a bedrock to America&#39;s economy and a critical driver of innovation). The price of drugs falls dramatically after patents expire, due to market competition from generic drugs. This is good news for patients, but so is innovation. There&#39;s a careful balance here.</p> <p> When policy researchers have a hammer in hand, everything looks like a nail. Regulators want more regulation. Too often, the policy recommendations to make drugs more affordable focus on regulations that ultimately result in price controls. These controls, in pharmaceutical language, would come with serious side effects.&nbsp;</p> <p> For example, the report encourages more government intervention in drug pricing in Medicare. As the dissenting view (published along with the study) notes: &quot;Allowing all government plans to negotiate as a single block would establish a near monopoly that would translate into functional price controls. This, in turn, would be likely to have a devastating effect on long-term, high-risk investment.&quot; In other words, if Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA could bully drugmakers into lower prices on certain drugs, this could result in drugmakers producing fewer drugs, especially new ones, which require a great deal of investment.&nbsp;</p> <p> Also, you may have also heard of drug &quot;reimportation.&quot; The NAS report recommends allowing drugs to be reimported to the United States from other countries (at lower prices) to induce greater competition. Of course, competition is the key to lower prices, but the situation with drugs is quite complicated: Many countries already have price controls on drugs in place, so the prices they offer are artificially low. This is why there are legitimate drug shortages in Canada and other countries with highly regulated drug markets. Price controls in foreign countries, as well as safety concerns over how foreign drugs are produced, stored, and transported, would make a truly free-market drug reimportation policy challenging.</p> <p> The long and short of it is this: We all want drugs to be more affordable, but certain policy measures -- like price controls at home or abroad -- come with the downside of implicit rationing. America leads the world in drug innovation because of our strong market protections for intellectual property. We&#39;ve seen so many diseases conquered or at least quelled with innovative drugs and vaccines that would have never been invented had we pursued wrong-headed policies that put numbers ahead of the needs of individual patients. As we consider changes to policy aimed at helping those patients, let&#39;s keep this in mind.&nbsp;</p> HeathThu, 7 Dec 2017 16:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumLt. Gov. Mary Taylor Shows Leadership on the Opioid Issue<p> In a new IWF podcast, I had the opportunity to talk with Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who explained how opioid addiction has wrecked so many hopes, dreams, lives, and communities.&nbsp;</p> <p> Lt. Gov. Taylor explained the efforts already underway in Ohio to combat addiction, including cracking down on pharmacies and doctors who&#39;ve acted badly and boosting law enforcement efforts and seizures of illicit drugs.&nbsp;She&#39;s proposing new ways to enlist private sector partners to help the state fight back against the opioid crisis, as well.</p> <p> Recently, President Trump declared a national public health emergency. I asked Lt. Gov. Taylor what this means for the state of Ohio. &quot;We&#39;ve always treated it like an emergency, and we welcome... the substantive solutions to help address this crisis.&quot; Lt. Gov. Taylor mentioned border security as one role the federal government can play in helping states keep illicit drugs out.&nbsp;</p> <p> We&#39;re thankful to Lt. Gov. Taylor for her leadership and attention to this critical issue.&nbsp;</p> <p> Listen to the full podcast here:</p> <p> <iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src=";color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> HeathThu, 7 Dec 2017 12:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumStatement: Senate Passes A #GoodDealForWomen<div> <div style="text-align: center;"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif"><strong><img alt="" height="143" src="" width="500" /></strong></span></span></div> <p> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">IMMEDIATE RELEASE<br /> Saturday, December 2, 2017</span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <br /> <span style="font-size:22px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif"><strong>Senate Passes A #GoodDealForWomen</strong></span></span><br /> <span style="font-size:20px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">Senate Takes Important Step Towards Historic Tax Reform that will Benefit&nbsp;Women</span></span><br /> &nbsp;</p> </div> <p> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">WASHINGTON, D.C.&nbsp;-- Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum Policy Director Hadley Heath Manning issued the statement below following 51-49 passage of the Senate tax bill:&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">&quot;The U.S. Senate passed a tax bill that is a #GoodDealForWomen. This is&nbsp;an important step toward historic tax reforms that will benefit millions of American women and their families, allowing us to keep more of our hard-earned dollars, making tax filing easier, and spurring higher wages and the creation of new jobs. The package reduces rates for all individual tax brackets, doubles the standard deduction and the child tax credit, and reduces the corporate tax rate significantly.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">&quot;In specific ways, the Senate bill is an improvement over the House bill. It&nbsp;eliminates the penalty for going without government-approved health insurance, which primarily affects low-income households who can&#39;t afford insurance in today&#39;s over-regulated environment. It boosts the child tax credit to $2000, higher than the $1600 in the House bill, and it includes an incentive for businesses to offer paid leave.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">&quot;Reforming our complex U.S. tax code is not an easy task, practically or politically. Change -- especially when overdue -- can be intimidating. But Americans have lived for too long with an outdated tax system that picks winners and losers through a complicated set of loopholes and exceptions. The Senate bill addresses many of the problems in our tax code and puts our country on a better, fairer economic path, which will have rewards for all of us.&quot;</span></span></p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">IWF recently released&nbsp;<em>Working for Women</em>&nbsp;<a href="">supplement on tax reform</a>. The document&nbsp;explains why tax reform offers an extraordinary opportunity to help women succeed in today&rsquo;s economy.</span></span></p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">Additionally,<em>&nbsp;<a href="">Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women&rsquo;s Lives</a></em>, a report released by IWF last year, details a slate of policy reforms to help more women and families, in which they have more control over the most pressing parts of their lives &ndash; including reforms to the tax code to benefit women in the workforce and society.</span></span></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">####</span></span></p> <p align="center"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif"><a href="" target="_blank"></a></span></span></p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif"><em>Independent Women&#39;s Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren&rsquo;t just well intended, but actually enhance people&rsquo;s freedom, choices, and opportunities.</em></span></span></p> <div> <p dir="ltr"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">--</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr"> &nbsp;</p> <table dir="ltr"> <colgroup> <col /> <col /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p dir="ltr"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="IWF_Stacked.png" height="29" src="" style="border:none" width="92" /></a></span></span></p> </td> <td> <p dir="ltr" style="margin-left:3.75pt;"> <span style="font-size:14px"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif">Victoria Coley<br /> VP, Communications<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum</a></span></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <div style="clear:both;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p> &nbsp;</p> HeathSat, 2 Dec 2017 06:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumSteinle Verdict, Spending Bill & DACA • After the Bell HeathFri, 1 Dec 2017 09:12:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumTax Talks: Pres. Trump has a an important internal and external role • Your World HeathTue, 28 Nov 2017 14:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumStay Away From Double Standards: Sexual misconduct reaches Congress • Kennedy HeathMon, 27 Nov 2017 15:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHealthcare choices should be as widespread as our Thanksgiving choices<p> Most people agree that turkey is essential to any Thanksgiving meal. After that, there&rsquo;s plenty of variety. Some might say cranberry sauce is essential; others hate the stuff. The same goes for dressing and other popular sides like sweet potatoes.</p> <p> Americans often disagree on what&rsquo;s essential in our lives, and that&rsquo;s fine: We&rsquo;re all free to cook what we like for our holiday tables, and omit the foods we don&rsquo;t like.</p> <p> But unfortunately we don&rsquo;t have the same freedom when it comes to our health insurance: The federal government is still dictating which coverage pieces are essential and which are not. This necessarily creates winners (those who are happy with the government&rsquo;s decisions) and losers (those who are not).</p> <p> We can give thanks for some good news: Regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services do recognize that increased flexibility would ultimately offer consumers greater choice and more affordability in health insurance. That&rsquo;s why they&rsquo;re currently considering&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a rule change</a>&nbsp;that would do just that: give states more wiggle room in complying with the federal government&rsquo;s &ldquo;Essential Health Benefits&rdquo; regulation.</p> <p> Yet policymakers are still making the mistake of trying to decree what is &ldquo;essential&rdquo; for everyone and thereby determine what must be in everyone&rsquo;s insurance package.</p> <p> For example, deep in the text of the new rule, regulators write, &ldquo;For plan years further in the future, we are considering establishing a Federal default definition of EHB that would better align medical risk in insurance products by balancing costs to the scope of benefits &hellip; For instance, as part of this approach, we could establish a national benchmark plan standard for prescription drugs that could balance these tradeoffs and provide a consistent prescription drug default standard across States.&rdquo;</p> <p> First &ndash; since when did government regulators need to concern themselves with &ldquo;balancing costs to the scope of benefits?&rdquo; Isn&rsquo;t this ultimately the job of insurance carriers and their actuaries? And what about consumers: Don&rsquo;t we have the right to decide if a plan offers the benefits we want at the right price?</p> <p> It should be simple: Government should have no business trying to micromanage the costs and benefits of a product offered in the marketplace, which individuals could choose to buy or not buy.</p> <p> But sadly, because the government is deeply involved in paying for health insurance (as it is with the Affordable Care Act, where more than&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">80 percent of exchange customers</a>&nbsp;use federal subsidies to buy their plans), the government cares very much about cost. Since government is now the one paying the bill, policymakers believe they get to make the important decisions about how the market must work. That&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s so dangerous about government-funded health care.</p> <p> Second &ndash; what&rsquo;s the point in offering states greater flexibility (the overall goal of the new rule) if the federal government only then plans to step in with national benchmark plan standards?</p> <p> Regulators are on the right track in reducing the role of the federal government in narrowly defining Essential Health Benefits. They should stop while they are ahead and allow states true flexibility, without federal benchmarks. What starts as a benchmark today may become the only option tomorrow, as governments (both federal and state) are eager to hold down costs.</p> <p> We&rsquo;ve seen this before: This is always the story of government rationing of healthcare. &ldquo;Recommendations&rdquo; and &ldquo;guidelines&rdquo; and &ldquo;benchmarks&rdquo; come first. Hard and fast rationing follows.</p> <p> The government is in charge of veterans&rsquo; health care, and the VA offers a very restrictive drug formulary. England and other countries with government-run healthcare face strict budget limits on drug coverage, too.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s no big deal if this Thanksgiving your favorite casserole doesn&rsquo;t make the family menu, but if you happen to need a specific drug that&rsquo;s not included in a national benchmark standard, what then? Or conversely: Who wants to be force-fed coverage that doesn&rsquo;t suit our personal needs (or our personal budgets)?</p> <p> The government should simply stay out of the health insurance business by allowing consumers to pick and choose what coverage pieces they want to buy. (Think of it as a buffet!) As well-meaning as regulators may be, there&rsquo;s no way they can know all of the needs and preferences of millions of patients when it comes to drugs or other forms of healthcare.</p> HeathTue, 21 Nov 2017 08:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumOur leaders should act with high integrity both in public and private lives • After The Bell HeathMon, 20 Nov 2017 13:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumStatement: Nebraska Approves Path for Keystone XL Pipeline <p align="center"> <strong><img alt="" height="157" src="" width="550" /></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>INDEPENDENT WOMEN&#39;S FORUM STATEMENT</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>NEBRASKA APPROVES PATH FOR KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE&nbsp;</strong><br /> <em>One Step Closer To Delivering More Jobs &amp; Lower Energy Costs for American Families</em></span></p> <p> <strong>WASHINGTON, D.C.</strong>&nbsp;-- Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum&nbsp;<strong>Policy Director Hadley Heath Manning</strong>&nbsp;issued the statement following the Nebraska Public Service Commission vote 3-2 to approve the Keystone XL pipeline route through the state:</p> <p> &quot;We applaud the decision of Nebraska regulators to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that is widely supported by labor unions, energy groups, and others, like IWF, who understand that the project will result in job creation and ultimately lower energy costs for American families. This brings final approval of this pipeline project one step closer to reality.</p> <div> &quot;This victory for Keystone XL comes at an important time, just after an unfortunate incident resulting in a spill. Any oil spill is unwelcome, of course, and pipeline operators should address these issues immediately (as they are now doing in South Dakota). But the fact still remains that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than other methods, like rail, because overall pipelines pose the lowest threat both to the environment and to human health.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> &quot;When considering important decisions like pipeline approvals, regulators have to take many factors into account. We are confident that Nebraska made the right decision today: The government should not stand in the way of this important project that represents progress in energy delivery, will create more jobs and lower costs for consumers.&quot;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <p align="center"> ####</p> <p align="center"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> <p> <em>Independent Women&#39;s Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren&rsquo;t just well intended, but actually enhance people&rsquo;s freedom, choices, and opportunities.</em></p> <div> &nbsp;</div> HeathMon, 20 Nov 2017 11:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe individual mandate belongs in the trash heap<p> The individual mandate &ndash; the requirement that virtually all Americans obtain government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty &mdash; has long been the least popular part of the Affordable Care Act. Narrowly surviving a Supreme Court challenge in 2012, the mandate&rsquo;s associated penalty has since technically been a &ldquo;tax,&rdquo; as it was only by the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">taxing power</a>&nbsp;that the provision was found constitutional.</p> <p> It would only be appropriate now for congressional leaders to repeal this mandate, or at least reduce the &quot;tax&quot; amount to $0, via tax reform legislation.</p> <p> This would have several positive effects. First, the obvious: the approximately&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">6.5 million people</a>&nbsp;who paid the penalty last year would not have to pay it this year.</p> <p> Second, repeal of the individual mandate would save the government money. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in the absence of the mandate, fewer people would enroll in subsidized Obamacare plans and in Medicaid, which means the government would spend fewer dollars on their health coverage. The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">latest score</a>&nbsp;shows savings of $338 billion over 10 years, and 13 million people going uninsured.</p> <p> Finally, and perhaps most important from the long-run perspective: repealing the individual mandate gets it off the books and out of the way for future health reform plans. Undoubtedly, one of the most harmful talking points used against efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare was the charge that these plans would leave 22 million Americans without coverage. But a closer look at the CBO score reveals that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">73 percent of the coverage change</a>&nbsp;(then 16 million out of 22 million) was a result of repealing the individual mandate. If Congress repeals the individual mandate now, as part of tax reform, this will pave the way for a more politically friendly battlefield over future health reforms.</p> <p> The debate over the individual mandate puts Democrats in a difficult position. They have to defend the least popular part of an already very divisive law. Yet most Democrats believe the individual mandate to be a critical piece of Obamacare that holds the rest of the law together. This is how: Obamacare takes away the ability of insurance companies to offer different prices to different customers based on risk. This creates an incentive for people to go without coverage until they have a need for it (at which point they can enroll at the same price as a healthy person). This would ultimately cause a &ldquo;death spiral,&rdquo; a phenomenon where only the unhealthy seek coverage.</p> <p> To stop this, the law includes the mandate, which is supposed to force people to enroll in coverage even if they don&rsquo;t see it as a beneficial financial arrangement.</p> <p> In theory, all of this is true: the ACA model needs the individual mandate. But in practice, the mandate has been far less effective and is therefore far less critical to Obamacare&rsquo;s success or failure than many first thought. The Obamacare mandate simply doesn&rsquo;t have enough &ldquo;teeth&rdquo; to be truly effective. First, there are many different types of exemptions, taken by about&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">12.7 million</a>&nbsp;people last year. Then consider that average penalty that taxpayers paid for going without insurance in 2016 was&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">about $470</a>&hellip; compared to Obamacare premiums, which cost, on average&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">$411 monthly.</a></p> <p> The sad truth is that, even with the mandate in place, many Americans are opting out of Obamacare, and the feared &ldquo;death spiral&rdquo; is happening anyway, mainly because its plans are so expensive. By comparison, the mandate isn&rsquo;t that bad for most.</p> <p> We should keep in mind the wisdom of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">former President Barack Obama</a>, who, before changing his tune, once said, &ldquo;If a mandate was a solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house. The reason they don&rsquo;t have a house is that they don&rsquo;t have the money.&rdquo; The same is true of health coverage.</p> <p> To really help hardworking Americans get the insurance coverage they need, our approach to healthcare should be very different from the Obamacare approach. We should focus on bringing down costs and offering consumers more options through more vibrant market competition. In the meantime, we can offer Americans tax relief through repeal of Obamacare&rsquo;s misguided and unproductive individual mandate.</p> HeathWed, 15 Nov 2017 14:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumImpact of tax reform bill on women and families • Kennedy HeathTue, 14 Nov 2017 11:11:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum