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 and Trump to Debate For Charity? Where's Hillary? • Coast To Coast HeathFri, 27 May 2016 12:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumVeterans Would Do A Lot Better If Disney Were Running The VA<p> Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald is claiming he was either misunderstood or that he misspoke when he said, &ldquo;When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what&rsquo;s important? What&rsquo;s important is, what&rsquo;s your satisfaction with the experience?&rdquo;</p> <p> McDonald has appropriately received blowback for this tone-deaf comment, and he backtracked 33 hours later (who&rsquo;s counting?). But his comment was not only insensitive. It was also wrong.</p> <p> Of course health care is a matter of life and death and shouldn&rsquo;t be compared to a tilt-a-whirl ride at an amusement park. And obviously wait times are an important part of how quality of care should be measured.</p> <p> Even worse for the VA secretary, his revealing comment speaks to a terrible truth for America&rsquo;s veterans: They&rsquo;d actually be better off if a private company, like Disney, were in charge of their care.</p> <p> The VA has been in hot water over waiting times since 2014 when journalists revealed that scores of veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VA system on &ldquo;unofficial&rdquo; and manipulated waiting lists. Further investigations by the VA inspector general, Congress and the White House revealed that the problem was not isolated to Phoenix, but actually affected tens of thousands of veterans nationwide.</p> <p> Nearly two years later, wait times are still too long, and the feds still aren&rsquo;t being transparent enough about them. The VA Office of the Inspector General reported that 21 of 38 facilities investigated were using &ldquo;improper scheduling.&rdquo; USA Today explained:</p> <p> &ldquo;The problems included schedulers entering the next available date as a veteran&rsquo;s desired date, thereby reflecting no wait time. In some cases, they found managers directing them to do it. In others, VA staff had lists of patients outside the system, which meant their actual wait time was unknown.&rdquo;</p> <p> Almost needless to say, it&rsquo;s a tremendous insult to Disney to suggest that the theme park operates anything like today&rsquo;s Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, Disney does measure and share wait times with their customers and the public in various ways.</p> <p> Not only are ride-goers apprised of wait times by signs at most rides, but new smartphone applications can communicate wait times and other information about attractions across the park. If only the VA used similar technology!</p> <p> But outdated technology, long wait times and poor customer service are common problems in government-controlled health-care systems, like the VA and like some European countries with socialized medicine. The reason for this is a lack of competition, which robs the provider (the government) of any real incentive to measure and improve service.</p> <p> Of course there&rsquo;s political and public pressure to improve, but this pressure is no substitute for market competition and the potential loss of customers, which would drive providers out of business and workers out of their jobs.</p> <p> Private companies like Disney have to compete every day with other entertainment companies and theme parks. If Universal Studios or Six Flags is using cutting-edge technology to measure wait times, well, Disney better figure it out, too.</p> <p> The problem with the VA is that veterans are trapped in the system, with no such recourse if they receive poor or untimely care.</p> <p> Despite efforts at &ldquo;reforms&rdquo; that would offer veterans more choice, not much has changed at the VA. The 2014 Veterans&rsquo; Access, Choice, and Accountability Act has not worked as intended. The idea was that veterans getting substandard service at VA facilities could seek care from private doctors, but in reality the restrictions on this option are too great to allow for meaningful choice.</p> <p> Veterans deserve better service, and they deserve a VA secretary who will be a true advocate on their behalf.</p> <p> McDonald should not have compared veterans&rsquo; health care to Disneyland. His analogy betrayed a lack of seriousness about wait times and an ignorance of how inadequate government&rsquo;s level of service is compared to the private sector.</p> <p> Veterans would be better served by a health system where they could choose among private companies competing to offer them the highest quality and best information.</p> <p> And, yes, shortest wait times.</p> <p> <em>Hadley Heath Manning is the director of health policy at the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> HeathThu, 26 May 2016 07:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumNew Overtime Regs Could Affect Your Health... Insurance<p> The Department of Labor released new regulations on overtime pay this month, and we are just beginning to hear about the repercussions. IWF&#39;s Carrie Lukas has written more about the <a href="">costs associated with these new regulations</a>, but one interesting aspect is the effect on health insurance plans.</p> <p> Most Americans with private health insurance coverage have an employer-sponsored plan. In fact, businesses of 50 or more workers are required to do so under the Affordable Care Act&#39;s employer mandate (or face a penalty). This means that employers have to budget for health insurance benefits as a part of their total labor cost, which also includes salaries and wages.&nbsp;</p> <p> The bottom-line effect of the overtime regulations is that more workers will qualify for overtime pay. This might sound like a windfall for those workers, but the costs are serious. And these costs won&#39;t just be borne by businesses, but by their workers. The <a href="">average cost of a group plan</a> in 2015 was $6,251 for single coverage and $17,545 for family coverage, and this cost goes up every year. The cost of the penalty for not providing health insurance is much lower: $2,000 or $3,000 per worker annually (depending on the circumstances). Therefore, some employers -- even some subject to the mandate -- might be discouraged from providing coverage if their labor costs are squeezed too tightly.&nbsp;</p> <p> I explain some of this in today&#39;s healthcare minute video:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe></p> <p> Here&#39;s the explanation from the National Association of Health Underwriters that I mentioned:</p> <blockquote> <p> While this regulation does not impact group health insurance benefits directly, it could affect employee benefits generally for many employers. First, no matter how an employer decides to handle these new pay requirements, it is generally expected that this rule will necessitate increased salary budgets for employers. That means there may be less to spend on employee benefits generally...</p> </blockquote> <p> Another cost to consider is compliance costs. The formulas and tracking metrics that employers must use to determine who is elible for overtime pay are not the same as those used to determine how many full-time equivilents an employer has (which is used for compliance with the ACA&#39;s employer mandate). NAHU explains:</p> <blockquote> <p> The new rule will also require employers to start tracking hours worked for many employees who never previously punched a clock. The hours tracking required for overtime purposes, of course, does not match up with hours tracking that may be now occurring to track the need for coverage offers for an employer&rsquo;s compliance with the ACA&rsquo;s employer shared responsibility provisions (employer mandate). Therefore, depending on the compensation decisions an employer makes to comply with the new rules, further changes to HRIS and payroll systems may be required.</p> </blockquote> <p> These costs add up, and inevitably result in fewer jobs, fewer opportunities for growth and advancement, and perhaps even fewer on-the-job benefits.&nbsp;</p> HeathWed, 25 May 2016 13:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDissatisfaction with ACA evident, survey says<p> A new survey shows how ObamaCare enrollees feel about ObamaCare.</p> <p> The <a href="">survey</a> from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that about half of ObamaCare enrollees (52 percent) describe their plan as &quot;good.&quot; The percentage of those saying &quot;not so good&quot; or &quot;poor&quot; is higher this year (31 percent) than it was last year (21 percent in 2015) and the year before (20 percent in 2014).</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;I&#39;ve seen this survey spun both ways,&quot; says Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at </span></span><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Independent Women&#39;s Forum</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">. &quot;But certainly it should concern us that so many people give their plans a &#39;poor&#39; rating, because that is obviously dissatisfaction.&quot;</span></span></strong></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Manning says this gels with findings from Gallup and other polling companies or organizations.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;We know from various surveys that about half of Americans would like to see the Affordable Care Act repealed,&quot; she continues. &quot;Americans can&#39;t seem to agree on what they believe the solution should be, but we do see a slim majority of people typically reporting that they don&#39;t believe that the Affordable Care Act is the right solution &ndash; and that can easily link up with other surveys like this one from Kaiser showing that about the same number of people are dissatisfied in their personal experience.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Meanwhile, Manning says there are various ways to try to gauge satisfaction.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;Whether that is in terms of the value and the quality that people perceive in their ACA-compliant plans, or especially when it comes to the cost that individuals and employers are facing in the health insurance markets, they seem to be dissatisfied largely as a result of ever-increasing costs.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> Twenty percent of Democrats say they were negatively affected by the Affordable Care Act. Sixteen percent of Republicans say they benefited from the ACA.</p> HeathWed, 25 May 2016 08:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumMore People Growing Dissatisfied with ObamaCare Plans • American Family Radio HeathTue, 24 May 2016 10:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDebunking Hillary Clinton's "Wage Gap" Argument • Vicki McKenna Show HeathTue, 24 May 2016 07:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHOC's Robin Wright: Proof We Don't Need Big Government To Fix "Wage Gap" • Marc Cox HeathFri, 20 May 2016 14:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumZubik V. Burwell Ruling Proves There Can Be Compromise • Garrison HeathThu, 19 May 2016 12:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumProminent Actor Proves We Don't Need More "Equal Pay" Laws<p> I&#39;m a big fan of Robin Wright, the actor who co-stars with Kevin Spacey on <em>House of Cards</em>. I have to admit I don&#39;t watch <em>House of Cards</em>, but &quot;The Princess Bride&quot; is one of my all-time favorite movies. Wright plays &quot;Princess Buttercup&quot; in the film.</p> <p> Now I have a new reason to admire her; Robin Wright recently explained how she negotiated for higher pay <a href="">in an interview with the Rockefeller Foundation</a>. In 2014, Wright earned $420,000 per episode, while Spacey earned $500,000. She noted the discrepancy and took her case to her employer. She explained why she believed she merited the same pay as Spacey, and her employer decided she was right. She got a massive raise.&nbsp;</p> <p> From the interview, as reported by Marie Claire:</p> <blockquote> <p> &ldquo;I was like, &#39;I want to be paid the same as Kevin,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Wright. &quot;It was the perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in&nbsp;<em style="box-sizing: inherit;">House of Cards.</em></p> <p> &ldquo;I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood&#39;s character was more popular than [Frank&#39;s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, &#39;You better pay me or I&rsquo;m going to go public,&#39;&rdquo; Wright said.&nbsp;&ldquo;And they did.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p> What&#39;s interesting about Wright&#39;s logic is that she doesn&#39;t assume that she and Spacey should be paid equally simply because they are both actors on the same show. She did her research and used her leverage to make the case for her value. &nbsp;She seems to understand that if the show were significantly different -- if her part (as &quot;matriarch&quot;) and Spacey&#39;s part (as &quot;patriarch&quot;) were not equal -- then her case for equal pay would not have been as strong. Her negotiation was based on what she brought to the show.</p> <p> This is an empowering story especially because Wright didn&#39;t embrace a victim attitude when she learned about the pay discrepancy. She didn&#39;t expect that someone else should solve this problem for her, but she first approached her employer directly. This is a great piece of evidence that women can take some steps to close the wage gap by more aggressively negotiating their own compensation.&nbsp;</p> <p> This isn&#39;t to say that wage discrimination never happens or isn&#39;t a problem. In some ways, Wright&#39;s situation is unique because the world of Hollywood doesn&#39;t represent the typical industry. Sadly, sometimes women in various fields do face unfair pay discrepancies with their male colleagues. Employers who refuse to pay women equally for equal work are in the wrong. Not only that, but they are breaking laws that date back to the 1960s: The Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. We don&#39;t need additional legal protections; we already have laws that forbid sex-based wage discrimination.&nbsp;</p> <p> We know that most of the &quot;wage gap&quot; today -- the statistic that shows women earn about 78 cents on the dollar compared to what men make -- is caused by factors <em>other than discrimination</em>. Women are more likely to choose less lucrative professions, to work fewer hours, and to prefer other forms of compensation besides wages (like benefits). Negotiation also plays a role. I hope this recent news story about Robin Wright will underscore that women today have the freedom to make all kinds of decisions concerning their work, and that they also have the agency to seek change if they are undervalued.&nbsp;</p> HeathThu, 19 May 2016 11:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumZubik V. Burwell: A Win For Women And Religious Liberty<p> This week the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Zubik v. Burwell, the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act&rsquo;s birth control mandate, remanding the issue to lower courts and instructing them to find a compromise that accommodates petitioners&rsquo; religious liberty interests while protecting women&rsquo;s contraceptive coverage.</p> <p> The opinion is a victory for both women and religious liberty, and proves, as petitioners and their allies have suggested all along, that compromise is possible even on this hot-button issue.&nbsp;</p> <p> Nonprofit organizations brought this consolidated case against the federal government alleging the mandate violated their deeply held religious beliefs.&nbsp;</p> <p> The Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum, along with the Cato Institute, filed an amicus brief in support of petitioners. The IWF believes that women&rsquo;s access to preventive healthcare is a laudable goal. But it would be a mistake to paint this case as a clear-cut conflict between women and religious employers; indeed, many of the petitioners, including a group of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, are women.&nbsp;</p> <p> Even before this case was filed, the government acknowledged that the mandate would raise religious liberty concerns. That&rsquo;s why it provided an exemption for houses of worship and a different &ldquo;accommodation&rdquo; for other religious nonprofits. But this second-best accommodation still required these groups to be complicit in providing the objectionable coverage.</p> <p> When the Supreme Court ruled against the government in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, a similar case, the court pointed to the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by President <a href=""><strong>Bill Clinton</strong></a>, which requires the government to use the &ldquo;least restrictive means&rdquo; to pursue its interests. In other words, the court asked: &ldquo;Is there a better way&rdquo; to foster access to contraception without burdening religious liberty? &nbsp;Because the majority in Hobby Lobby answered &ldquo;yes,&rdquo; Hobby Lobby won.&nbsp;</p> <p> This question &quot;is there a better way?&quot; has clearly been on the justices&rsquo; minds in Zubik v. Burwell. The court signaled as much when, in an unprecedented move, it asked parties to submit supplemental briefs describing what a better way might be.&nbsp;</p> <p> The administration has unfairly attempted to paint opponents to the mandate as aggressors in what it&#39;s calling a &ldquo;war on women,&rdquo; in an effort to fuel the culture wars and drum up political support among women.</p> <p> Hardly. The truth is that these nonprofits have expressed narrow concerns. They do not oppose access to contraception or their employees using it. They simply ask that the government not force them to participate in providing coverage that violates their religious beliefs. In their supplemental briefs, they described compromise solutions that would allow access to the objectionable coverage without their involvement.</p> <p> Meanwhile, the Obama administration time and again has been inflexible on this issue and has revealed its own ignorance on matters of religious conscience.&nbsp;</p> <p> When the government attempts to determine which organizations are sufficiently religious to merit an exemption, while others get only a meaningless &ldquo;accommodation,&rdquo; the result is laughable and sad. The Little Sisters, Catholic nuns who minister to the elderly and dying, are not religious enough?&nbsp;</p> <p> For the government, this fight is clearly about power and control, not about finding a workable solution that suits both religious employers and female workers.</p> <p> But now it seems the government will have to do so. The Supreme Court&rsquo;s opinion requires as much; it directs the parties to work out an approach that will accommodate petitioners&rsquo; religious exercise. This is all that the petitioners asked for, and importantly, women&rsquo;s access to contraceptive coverage will not be significantly changed. In short, the Zubik decision is a win for both women and religious liberty, and demonstrates that, politics aside, compromise really was possible all along.&nbsp;</p> HeathThu, 19 May 2016 08:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumConvention Chaos For The Democrats? • Coast To Coast HeathWed, 18 May 2016 13:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIWF: Problems with Medicaid expansion<p> Oklahoma may be the next state to expand Medicaid, but not everyone sees positives.</p> <p> <a href="">According to <em>The Associated Press</em></a>, a sharp decline in revenue and a billion-dollar budget hole threatens Oklahoma&#39;s healthcare system. As a result, some lawmakers &ndash; including Republicans &ndash; are in favor of shifting thousands of people from Oklahoma&#39;s Medicaid rolls onto the federal health exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. Such a move would then make room for adding to Medicaid roughly the same number of working poor who are currently uninsured. Participants would pay nominal premiums and co-pays.</p> <p> The move, by increasing the number of uninsured people covered, would allow the state to tap into the extra money offered under the federal law. Beginning in 2017, the federal government would cover 95 percent of the state&#39;s Medicaid costs, decreasing to 90 percent of the share in 2020.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;It&#39;s understandable the temptation to expand Medicaid,&quot; responds Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at the </span></span><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Independent Women&#39;s Forum</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">. &quot;It seems like a quick and easy solution to the problem of un-insurance among low-income people, but unfortunately Medicaid represents two major problems, especially with an expanded population.&quot;</span></span></strong></span></p> <p> Number one on the list, she says: It doesn&#39;t come without a cost.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;It is a cost for taxpayers &ndash; and most of the expansion is paid for via federal tax dollars,&quot; Manning explains. &quot;That doesn&#39;t mean Oklahomans aren&#39;t paying, [because] of course Oklahomans are also federal taxpayers.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> The second problem, she continues, is that the Medicaid program is already thinly stretched.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;And that is to say there are many, many patients who rely on Medicaid coverage; but there aren&#39;t as many physicians and healthcare providers who are willing to accept Medicaid coverage because of the lower-reimbursement rates that the program offers for many of the health services that providers can provide.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">Manning believes the states ought to be taking a look at how to reform Medicaid and how to empower those patients who are truly indigent poor and cannot afford to buy private health insurance on their own.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong><span style="background-color: rgb(234, 66, 91);">&quot;Other than that, to help low-income people, our focus should really be on lowering the cost of private health insurance, so that those people are able to sufficiently purchase their own health insurance and to have better access to better health outcomes.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> HeathWed, 18 May 2016 07:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumTrump Should Focus On Women & Economy Rather Than Personal Attacks And Ads • CNN Newsroom HeathTue, 17 May 2016 13:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHillary Holds Slight Lead Over Trump • The Hardline HeathTue, 17 May 2016 11:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIs A Third Party Run A Serious Attempt? • After The Bell HeathMon, 16 May 2016 16:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum