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 White House shake up will his agenda gain more traction? • After The Bell HeathFri, 21 Jul 2017 07:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumEmma Stone's reaction to unequal pay is interesting, but problematic<p> Actress Emma Stone <a href="">recently made headlines</a>&nbsp;for an unorthodox solution to the wage gap: she asks&nbsp;her male co-stars to take a pay cut in order to have an equitable salary to hers. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s something they do for me because they feel it&rsquo;s&nbsp;what&rsquo;s right and fair,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p> Stone is not the first actress to speak out about the issue of pay inequality. Jessica Chastain is a frequent speaker on the topic;&nbsp;Kate Winslet has <a href="">said</a> she thinks it&#39;s &quot;vulgar&quot; to talk openly about pay;&nbsp;Jennifer Lawrence has <a href="">said</a> she avoided asking for equal pay in the past for fear of being seen as &quot;spoiled.&quot;&nbsp;But some actions are better than others for creating systemic change, and there&#39;s reason to believe Stone&#39;s approach is problematic&mdash;even by Hollywood standards.</p> <p> It is noble of Stone&rsquo;s co-stars to take this cut for her, but the goal should not be to have everyone make less in the name of equality. Usually when we call for equality, we don&#39;t mean let&#39;s all go down to a lower common denominator, right? One would hope to see women lifted up, not all parties lowered.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">According to policy analyst Hadley Manning of the Independent Women&#39;s Forum, our general fascination with Hollywood sometimes blinds us to the economic realities average Americans face. &quot;I think the idea of [a male costar] decreasing his salary was really interesting,&quot; she added, &quot;but I don&#39;t think that&#39;s a solution that can really be exported to other industries or the economy more broadly. It&#39;s more a symbolic gesture; instead of making 10 million on a movie, they might make 9.&quot;&nbsp;</span></strong></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">According to Manning, scenarios like these aren&#39;t applicable to the broader economy, and neither is the wage gap we see in Hollywood. &quot;Since acting jobs require specific male and female roles; casting directors say &lsquo;we&#39;re only looking for men&rsquo; or &lsquo;only looking for women&rsquo;; whereas accounting firms don&#39;t say that,&quot; Manning pointed out.</span></strong></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">According to Manning, the wage gap stats we hear from the Department of Labor don&#39;t take into account a multitude of factors, such as industry, experience, or whether time is taken off&mdash;factors that&nbsp;have a large impact on pay.&nbsp;Once we account for those variables, Manning says, &quot;the pay gap shrinks to almost nothing. Six&nbsp;cents on the dollar, according to the American Association of University Women; another source I heard says 3 cents on the dollar; and another that attempted to correct the variables, looking at urban childless women, found there was a 10-cent reverse wage gap where women were out-earning their male counterparts.&quot;</span></strong></span></p> <p> All this is to say we should pause before asking our male co-workers to decrease their salaries. Even if&nbsp;a wage gap remains after we account for different variables, women are better off negotiating with employers for higher salaries and making counter offers in the early stages of accepting a position. Efforts like these do more to improve workplace culture and change hiring practices for everyone.&nbsp;Men should stand up for their female coworkers, and while Stone has benefitted from that in a unique way, the most just solution would be for her producers, not coworkers, to acknowledge the worth of a woman&#39;s work as equal to men&#39;s.&nbsp;</p> HeathMon, 17 Jul 2017 12:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumYes, Birth control pills should be available over the counter<p> Making birth-control pills available over the counter would greatly increase convenience and access for many women, ultimately leading to fewer unintended pregnancies. There is no reason women should have to obtain a prescription for this common, safe and effective drug that has been around since the 1960s.</p> <p> Currently, our national policy on birth control is terribly misguided.</p> <p> Because birth control is a prescription drug, and because the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to provide no-copay coverage for birth control, American women typically don&rsquo;t buy the inexpensive pills directly from a pharmacy &mdash; as women do in most other countries. American women typically use a third-party payer, like an insurance company, to pay for their contraception. And often, employers provide health insurance.</p> <p> This has inevitably led to a culture clash, as we saw in the Hobby Lobby case, and more recently with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who objected to paying for insurance coverage for contraception, which they see as morally wrong. Employers shouldn&rsquo;t be forced to pay for this coverage; no one should. And women who use birth control shouldn&rsquo;t have their contraception entangled in choices made by their boss, their insurance company or anyone else.</p> <p> But it&rsquo;s not just the culture clash. This pipeline of payment &mdash; among women, their employers, their insurers and ultimately their pharmacies &mdash; is inefficient and costly. Women may see no-copay birth control as a benefit, but it&rsquo;s one they pay for: Since the Affordable Care Act passed, average health insurance premiums have increased by 105 percent, more than doubling. Women still pay for birth control; now we simply do it through higher insurance premiums.</p> <p> This does little for vulnerable women who still lack insurance coverage. In fact, it hurts them. As more and more women buy birth control through insurance payment, fewer and fewer women are price-conscious, direct-pay shoppers, meaning drug sellers face less and less resistance when raising prices on this group.</p> <p> On the other hand, if all women bought birth control directly from a pharmacy, over the counter, we would expect to see prices decrease. This is what has happened when other drugs have moved from prescription-only status to over-the-counter: The price of Claritin, for example, fell 50 percent within one year.</p> <p> Lower prices at the pharmacy &mdash; along with skipping the step to make and keep a doctor&rsquo;s appointment in order to get a prescription &mdash; means greater access to birth control. One study from the University of California at San Francisco estimates that making birth control available over the counter could lead to a decrease in unplanned pregnancies as great as 25 percent.</p> <p> Most women can afford to pay a nominal amount for basic birth-control pills. Furthermore, there are government programs to provide birth control free of charge to women who are truly in need. These could continue regardless of other birth control policy changes.</p> <p> Some are resistant to making birth control over the counter, citing safety concerns. The reality is that birth-control pills are very safe, and many of the screenings at a doctor&rsquo;s visit, such as pap test, do not indicate if a woman is a good candidate for hormonal birth-control pills or not. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed over-the-counter birth control, citing several studies that show that women are capable of self-screening for contraindications.</p> <p> There are a couple of forms of birth control that are already available today without a prescription. Condoms, of course, are widely available. And ironically, the morning-after pill or &ldquo;Plan B&rdquo; &mdash; which includes a much higher dose of the same hormones as regular birth-control pills &mdash; is available without a prescription. It makes no sense from public health standpoint that &ldquo;Plan A&rdquo; is harder to get.</p> <p> The politics of this issue have become complicated, but they need not be. Liberal women&rsquo;s groups generally like the idea of over-the-counter birth control &mdash; unless a Republican, like Sen. Cory Gardner, Rep. Mia Love or President Donald Trump is advocating for it.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s time for us to put petty partisanship aside and focus on what&rsquo;s best for American women. Unsurprisingly, most women (nearly two-thirds, according to a 2013 poll) favor this common-sense idea. Over-the-counter birth control would increase access and convenience for the millions of women who chose to use these safe, common drugs.</p> HeathFri, 14 Jul 2017 08:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy this protest will actually hurt democrats... • Your World HeathThu, 13 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumNew Senate healthcare bill is a slight (emphasis on slight) improvement over last draft<p> In an ongoing effort to pass health reform, Senate leadership are out with a new version of the&nbsp;<a href="">Better Care Reconciliation Act</a>. In some ways, this bill is an improvement: The latest version includes more freedom for insurance companies to offer (and for consumers to buy) insurance plans that don&#39;t meet all of Obamacare&#39;s requirements. Therefore, these plans would be more affordable. It also includes a fund to help insurance companies keep costs low for those with medical conditions and costly claims. And it would let people use Health Savings Accounts to pay for coverage.</p> <p> Unfortunately, this new version of the bill keeps some Obamacare taxes in place, meaning $230 billion more in taxes than in the previous version.</p> <p> The change that would allow insurance companies to sell more basic plans (perhaps the most substantive change to the latest bill) is the ultimate result of&nbsp;<a href=";id=3239">efforts from conservative Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah</a>. The senators have argued that no one should be forced to buy coverage above and beyond what they want or need. This change would effectively repeal Obamacare&#39;s &quot;essential health benefits&quot; (the federal rules on what insurance plans must provide).</p> <p> Importantly, state regulations on insurance plans would still dictate just how basic plans could be. And as a compromise, Cruz and Lee would only allow insurers to sell basic plans if they also sold at least one plan with all of Obamacare&#39;s bells and whistles.</p> <p> This would offer some relief to the millions of people who have borne the burden of high premiums under Obamacare, thus providing them with an escape chute from at least some of the law&#39;s onerous and costly rules. The Congressional Budget Office will score the latest version of the Senate bill, and their score should include some estimated effects on premiums. When the CBO scored the House version of the bill, the agency said that premiums would be&nbsp;<a href="">roughly 20 percent lower</a>, on average, in states that chose to waive the essential health benefits. People would be paying less for less coverage, but this choice would be attractive to many.</p> <p> Some have criticized the reform from Cruz and Lee, suggesting that letting consumers opt into skimpier insurance plans could destabilize insurance markets by segmenting them into healthier folks, who might choose the new plans, and sicklier folks, who because of their health conditions would prefer to stay in the more comprehensive Obamacare-compliant plans.</p> <p> In response to this, a couple of points:</p> <p> First, to a certain extent, healthy people have already left the Obamacare exchanges, which is the root cause of Obamacare&#39;s problems today. Today, healthy people who don&#39;t want to pay for overpriced Obamacare plans have only one other option:&nbsp;<a href="">go uninsured and pay the penalty.</a>&nbsp;The Cruz/Lee idea offers them a third option: to buy a more basic plan.</p> <p> Second, the Senate bill also includes a fund to help insurance companies pay for &quot;high-risk&quot; individuals. There was a similar fund in the House bill, called the &quot;<a href="">Federal Invisible Risk-Sharing Program</a>.&quot; Republicans need to do a better job explaining this. Basically, this program, or fund, acts as a protection for people who do have high medical claims, because it uses government funds to subsidize their costs.</p> <p> Republicans have two ways to look at this. Conservative Republicans might see this as a &quot;bailout&quot; for insurance companies similar to the &quot;market stabilization&quot; programs in Obamacare. But, viewed another way, the fund in the Senate bill could simply represent the federal government funding a large high-risk pool, and high-risk pools are something Republicans have accepted, even promoted, in the past.</p> <p> The Cruz/Lee addition to the Senate bill is an improvement that is likely to help bring other conservative Republicans to vote &quot;yes&quot; on the bill. There are other changes, too, like that health savings accounts could be used to pay for health insurance premiums. This would finally give all Americans a tax-advantaged way to pay for health insurance &mdash; not just those who have employer-sponsored coverage.</p> <p> On the other hand, the latest bill, like any iteration, has its flaws. This version took the backward step of keeping in place two Obamacare tax increases: the Net Investment Income Tax and the 3.8 percent surcharge on high earners for Medicare. These taxes amount to&nbsp;<a href="">$230 billion in revenues</a>&nbsp;over the course of a decade. This money belongs in the private sector, but repealing these taxes is proving to be politically difficult.</p> <p> The next step will be to get this bill to the floor. Of course, Republicans have a difficult task and no wiggle room left, considering that Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are guaranteed to vote no.</p> <p> But the latest version seems to get the Senate closer to what President Trump has asked for &ndash; a &quot;beautiful&quot; healthcare bill on his desk.</p> HeathThu, 13 Jul 2017 08:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhat are the odds that tax reform will happen by end of the year? • Coast To Coast HeathMon, 10 Jul 2017 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCruz wrestling with ObamaCare … Is he winning?<p> <strong>While Republicans are debating efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare, one senator continues to push an escape hatch.</strong></p> <p> Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants an amendment in the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) that would <a href="">allow insurers to sell plans that do not comply with ObamaCare</a> &ndash; the Affordable Care Act (ACA) &ndash; as long as insurers offer at least one plan that does comply with former President Barack Obama&rsquo;s problematic program.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Hadley Heath Manning, who serves with </span></span><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Independent Women&rsquo;s Voice</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;"> appreciates what Cruz is trying to do.</span></span></strong></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;It&#39;s obviously an attempt from Senator Cruz to make the legislation so that the end result would be greater choice for consumers &ndash; and also lower premiums,&quot; Manning insisted. &quot;Because of the ACA-compliant plans, part of the reason they&#39;ve struggled to attract the right pool of applicants is because they mandate the essential health benefits as required coverage, and there are many regulations on how they can be bought and sold. And so, essentially Senator Cruz is talking about an escape hatch from the ACA regulations in the form of this new provision that he&#39;s suggesting.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> Twila Brase of <a href="">Citizens&#39; Council for Health Freedom</a> says it amounts to an opt-out from ObamaCare.</p> <p> &quot;We like the idea,&quot; Brase assured. &quot;Because if they refuse to repeal the law &ndash; or if they take a vote and they can&#39;t repeal it &ndash; well, that is one way to let Americans out of ObamaCare &hellip; even though it&#39;s still in law.&quot;</p> <p> She is no fan of the former president&rsquo;s medical program</p> <p> &quot;I think it&#39;s a great idea to just repeal the law,&quot; she continues. &quot;Do a two-page bill and vote on it and see what happens.&quot;</p> <p> And as far as replacing ObamaCare, Brase believe that it is important to remember that the federal government should not be in the business of health care.</p> <p> &quot;That&#39;s sort of what got us into the trouble that we&#39;re in today,&quot; the healthcare expert explained. &quot;So, rather than replacing ObamaCare with another federal program or another federal law, it would be good for the government and the Congress to send it back to the states.&quot;</p> <p> Many wonder if this is allowing the market to fix things with ObamaCare &ndash; without the government getting involved.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;What I&#39;ve seen in the Senate bill &ndash; and even the House bill so far &ndash; looks like an attempt to repeal major portions of ObamaCare, but also to fix some of the flaws in ObamaCare,&quot; Manning shared. &quot;I would say the Cruz proposal is different &ndash; because rather than fixing ObamaCare, it would literally create an alternative that would operate alongside ObamaCare because, of course, carriers under the Cruz plan would have to continue to offer at least one plan that is compliant with ACA regulations. And so, rather than fixing ObamaCare, this proposal would just give consumers a choice: Do you want to be an in an ACA-compliant plan, or would you like to buy one of the non-compliant plans that perhaps offers basic coverage for a more affordable premium?&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Manning then addressed whether this will leave the pools of people insured in the ACA plans to pay higher prices in the absence of younger, healthier people that presumably leave to purchase non-ACA plans.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;I think that&#39;s an important part of the discussion,&quot; Manning asserted. &quot;A good question is to what extent has this already happened, because we do see younger, healthier consumers really turned off by the ACA plans that are offered today &ndash; and some of them even choosing sometimes to pay the penalty and go without any form of health insurance as an alternative.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">If those are your two choices today -- to go uninsured or buy a plan that, in your calculation, is overpriced and may provide more insurance coverage than you need &ndash; then Manning says the Cruz proposal offers those consumers another option.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;A third option [would be] carrying a more basic, more affordable form of insurance,&quot; Manning added.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> At least one organization &ndash; Club for Growth &ndash; has come forward to back the plan devised by Cruz.</p> HeathMon, 10 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy are Republicans having trouble getting support for their health care bill? • MSNBC Live HeathSat, 8 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThis is why businesses are responding positively to the Trump administration... • Cost Of Freedom HeathSat, 8 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy on earth would Ohio continue to grow Medicaid?<div> The Ohio state legislature is trying to do something responsible: freeze the expansion of Medicaid in the Buckeye state. But Gov. John Kasich, otherwise a nice guy I&rsquo;m sure, has vetoed the freeze, which was included in a state budget that also placed restrictions on the state&rsquo;s executive branch to make Medicaid policy changes.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> It&rsquo;s the sad truth, but Medicaid enrollees have become pawns in the national debate over health policy. <a href="">Most of ObamaCare&rsquo;s effect on health insurance coverage</a> in the United States has been to increase Medicaid rolls. Net private health insurance coverage <a href="">only increased by about 2.3 million people</a> (because while some millions have enrolled in the ObamaCare exchanges, millions of others lost plans they had and liked).</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Therefore, when national policy wonks and politicians talk about potential coverage losses due to the repeal of ObamaCare, most of what they are talking about is related to Medicaid. But even &ldquo;coverage loss&rdquo; isn&rsquo;t quite the right term&hellip; Just as a &ldquo;budget cut&rdquo; in Washington really means a reduced rate of growth in spending, so a Medicaid &ldquo;coverage loss&rdquo; really means that repealing ObamaCare would slow the rate at which new enrollees are signing up for the government program for the poor. As the <a href="">CBO report said</a>:</div> <blockquote> <div> Medicaid enrollment would be lower throughout the coming decade, culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026,&nbsp;a reduction of about 17 percent <em><strong>relative to the number under current law </strong></em>(see Figure 3). Some of that decline would be among people who are currently eligible for Medicaid benefits, and <em><strong>some would be among people who CBO projects would, under current law, become eligible in the future as additional states adopted the ACA&rsquo;s option to expand eligibility.</strong></em></div> </blockquote> <div> Emphasis mine.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Now to Ohio, which has been a very important state in the national debate. Ohio has a Republican governor, Kasich, who has been supportive of Medicaid expansion. According to Jason Hart, writing for National Review, the state has seen <a href="">Medicaid rolls explode from 2.2 million to 3 million due to the expansion</a>.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> What&rsquo;s too often not discussed is the effect of Medicaid&rsquo;s expansion on truly vulnerable populations: the disabled, low-income pregnant women and elderly. These groups were typically eligible for Medicaid (in all 50 states) before expansion, and the federal government shared costs with states. Uncle Sam matches each dollar states <a href="">spend on these enrollees at a rate of $1 to $3 depending on the state</a>.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Enter Medicaid expansion, where Uncle Sam will now pay about $9 for each dollar states spend on expansion enrollees, who are more likely to be able-bodied childless adults. Yes, ObamaCare <a href="">basically encourages states to crowd out the truly vulnerable people in society</a> in order to enroll millions of new people, who conveniently have become a talking point for the left in the debate over ObamaCare.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Why on earth would Ohio &ndash; or any other state &ndash; continue to enroll people now? The best course of action would be to focus on making private insurance plans more affordable, so that people with modest incomes can afford to buy them on their own. Not only would this protect Ohio&rsquo;s taxpayers from the unknown future expense of their share of the program&rsquo;s cost, but it would also result in more Ohioans getting better access to care. The truly needy remaining in Medicaid wouldn&rsquo;t be crowded out, and other low-income Ohioans would have access to <a href="">more doctors and care</a>.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> If Ohio wants to pursue a compassionate and commonsense policy, it should freeze the Medicaid expansion and focus on free-market reforms. But if scoring political points is the main goal, by all means, keep the veto.&nbsp;</div> HeathFri, 7 Jul 2017 13:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe health bill would have a big impact on women. And women may decide if it passes.<p> WASHINGTON</p> <p> Two months after a group of 13 male Senate Republicans began crafting their legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, experts say the bill would disproportionately hurt women in a variety of ways.</p> <p> &ldquo;The bill has huge implications for women&rsquo;s health,&rdquo; said Usha Ranji, associate director of women&rsquo;s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. &ldquo;It raises the question of what health insurance really is.&rdquo;</p> <p> The bill would slash Medicaid, which pays for half of all childbirths in the United States and whose beneficiaries are 58 percent women. It would allow states to apply for waivers to 10 essential health care benefits, including maternity care. And it would de-fund for one year Planned Parenthood, which provides basic reproductive health care and cancer screenings to a client base that is nearly 90 percent women.</p> <p> ? The legislation&rsquo;s impact on women already may be a key factor in whether it eventually gets through Congress&rsquo; upper chamber. With Democrats united in opposition to the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose one vote among the body&rsquo;s 52 Republican members to maintain a majority. He was forced this week to delay a vote on the bill because of non-support within his ranks.</p> <p> Five Republican senators are women, and three have said they won&rsquo;t support the bill as it is now. Maine Sen. Susan Collins took to Twitter on Tuesday to say she&rsquo;d vote no, citing deep Medicaid cuts hurting the &ldquo;most vulnerable Americans.</p> <p> &ldquo;I want to work w/ my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA,&rdquo; she tweeted. &ldquo;CBO analysis shows Senate bill won&rsquo;t do it.&rdquo; Collins also told ABC&rsquo;s George Stephanopoulos on &ldquo;This Week&rdquo; that &ldquo;it makes absolutely no sense to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.&rdquo;</p> <p> West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said in a written statement on Tuesday that &ldquo;as drafted, the Senate health care bill is not the right fix for West Virginia, and I cannot support it.&rdquo;</p> <p> And Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told CNN she &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t have enough information&rdquo; to vote for the bill, but as a supporter of Planned Parenthood, she emphasized &ldquo;concerns&rdquo; about cutting Medicaid funding to the organization.</p> <p> As Republican senators return home for the July Fourth recess this weekend, many will likely face questions and even protests from voters about the bill&rsquo;s impact on care for the disabled &ndash; similar to a protest this week inside the U.S. Capitol that saw police pulling people out of their wheelchairs.</p> <p> Some two-thirds of those caring for older adults and disabled family members are women, according to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.</p> <p> The Senate&rsquo;s other two Republican women, Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, haven&rsquo;t publicly taken firm positions on the bill. Ernst sent an email poll to her constituents on Sunday, asking them whether they favored the legislation, while she has said she&rsquo;ll study the bill and its effects.</p> <p> In the House, 18 of the chamber&rsquo;s 21 Republican women supported House Speaker Paul Ryan&rsquo;s American Health Care Act, the Obamacare repeal bill that passed the lower chamber in May and contains many of the same provisions as the Senate bill.</p> <p> Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn, was one of the &ldquo;yes&rdquo; votes, but she said Thursday she didn&rsquo;t know about the Senate bill&rsquo;s impacts on women.</p> <p> &ldquo;I guess I haven&rsquo;t thought about it in quite that narrow perspective,&rdquo; said Black, who shepherded the bill through the House Budget Committee, which she chairs. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know that there weren&rsquo;t women involved in the drafting of the bill. That&rsquo;s an assumption &hellip; but I wasn&rsquo;t there, so I&rsquo;m not really sure.&rdquo;</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">? Hadley Heath Manning, director of policy at the conservative Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum in Washington, D.C., said &ldquo;groups in opposition are going a little too far&rdquo; with their criticism, and while &ldquo;it&rsquo;s fair to say the bill we&rsquo;re looking at now is imperfect,&rdquo; it&rsquo;s a step in the right direction.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot to consider when talking about women&rsquo;s health and reform,&rdquo; Manning said. &ldquo;We believe that women will continue to have access to the coverage they need.&rdquo;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> Implementing the bill would cause about 22 million more Americans to lose insurance during the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office&rsquo;s analysis. This could partially be due to slashed Medicaid funds, which critics say will hit women the hardest, as the program&rsquo;s enrollees are 58 percent women or nearly 40 million, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.</p> <p> &ldquo;It should really be called the Worse Care Act,&rdquo; said Janel George, deputy director of federal reproductive rights and health at the National Women&rsquo;s Law Center in Washington, at a joint news conference on Friday. &ldquo;This bill purports to fix our health system, but it does nothing more than devastate women&rsquo;s access to quality health care.&rdquo;</p> <p> In particular, a large share of low-income women and women of color depend on the Medicaid program, in large part for maternity care, making the bill &ldquo;devastating&rdquo; for these groups, George said.</p> <p> Women also use health care providers including Planned Parenthood to receive reproductive services, cancer screenings and other essential care. But with the Senate&rsquo;s bill, providers that offer abortions aren&rsquo;t eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.</p> <p> Planned Parenthood serves 2.4 million people, including men, in the United States, according to its website. Cutting Medicaid funding to those centers most notably hurts women in rural areas who have fewer available alternatives, said Ranji, of the Kaiser Family Foundation.</p> <p> Without enough accessible options for contraception, there will likely be more unwanted pregnancies, Ranji said.</p> <p> Arina Grossu, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the conservative Family Research Council, told reporters in a conference call Friday, though, that she thought the Senate bill would help women in part because it would redirect more than $500 billion from Planned Parenthood to community health centers.</p> <p> She said the community health centers offer &ldquo;much more&rdquo; primary care services to women, children and families that Planned Parenthood doesn&rsquo;t provide, such as immunizations and diabetes screening.</p> <p> She said the federally-qualified 13,000 community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 20 to 1.</p> <p> &ldquo;Part of Planned Parenthood&rsquo;s lie is that they make themselves available in rural communities, that&rsquo;s not true,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They go into the cities where they can make the most money.&rdquo;</p> <p> A report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office this winter estimated that community centers could not make up for the flood of patient losses, and that 400,000 people across the United States would lose care <a href="">if Planned Parenthood were de-funded under the House health bill</a>, and another 150,000 to 650,000 would see reduced access to care.</p> HeathFri, 30 Jun 2017 08:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThis is the real healthcare emergency... • Your World HeathTue, 27 Jun 2017 11:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWJ Investigates: Obamacare... a flawed health care system…<p> As Congress debates the future of health care in America, it is helpful first to consider Obamacare&rsquo;s failings, and then look to the reforms needed to not just replace the law, but make the health care system better for all.</p> <p> Health policy experts argue that the main problem with Obamacare is that it took a flawed health care system burdened with too much government intervention, in the form of regulation and dollars, and doubled down on it.</p> <p> &ldquo;Obamacare looked at an unaffordable system, that is not innovative, that isn&rsquo;t responsive, and it just threw more money at that system.&rdquo; <a href="">Michael Cannon</a>, director of health policy studies with the Cato Institute, told Western Journalism. &ldquo;Right now the government controls directly or indirectly 80 percent or more of our health care dollars.&rdquo;</p> <p> The <a href="">individual mandate</a>, which went into effect in January 2014, requires all Americans to have ACA-compliant health insurance or face an <a href="">annual fine</a>, which has been going up each year. In 2016, it was a minimum of $695 per adult and $347.50 for children, or 2.5 percent of a household&rsquo;s income, whichever is greater. Therefore, a family of four would owe $2,085 at a minimum. Using the 2.5 percent figure, for an individual earning $50,000 per year, the penalty would be $1,250.</p> <p> The fee must be paid in full if the lapse in coverage was two full months or more, half if less than that time period.</p> <p> The <a href="">employer mandate</a>, which went into effect in 2015, requires all businesses with 50 or more people to provide ACA-compliant insurance to their full-time employees (30 or more hours per week) or pay an annual fee of $2,000 per full-time employee not covered.</p> <p> Obamacare expanded those eligible for free government health care under Medicaid to those earning <a href="">138 percent of the federal poverty level</a>. For 2017, the threshold is about $16,600 for individuals and $33,900 for a family of four.</p> <p> In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government mandating the states to expand Medicaid (which is a shared federal/state program) is unconstitutional. Thirty-two states, including the District of Columbia, have <a href="">expanded </a>their programs and 19 have not.</p> <p> Former President Barack Obama, in selling the increased role of the federal government in health care &mdash; which accounts for 20 percent of the American economy &mdash; promised Americans that those who currently had health care plans would not be affected by the new law.</p> <p> &ldquo;If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,&rdquo; Obama pledged on multiple occasions before and after the bill&rsquo;s passage.</p> <p> Politifact named this promise the<a href=""> &ldquo;Lie of the Year&rdquo; </a>in 2013, as over 4 million cancellation letters went out to policy holders that year, and such letters continued in the years thereafter.</p> <p> The reason for the millions of cancellations was the mandated coverage requirements of Obamacare &mdash; <a href="">essential health benefits</a> &mdash; that forced insurers to cancel the policies in order to be compliant.</p> <p> Essential health benefits include coverage that some consumers may not want or ever need, including maternity and newborn care, mental health and addiction treatment, prescription drugs, preventive services (including the contraception mandate) and pediatric services.</p> <p> Not surprisingly, each additional coverage health insurance providers must include in their policies drives up the costs.</p> <p> Incredulously, given the insurance mandates, Obama promised that premiums would go down an average of $2,500 a year per family of four and thereby live up to the name &ldquo;Affordable Care Act.&rdquo; However, the opposite proved to be true. Politifact listed this as a <a href="">&ldquo;promise broken.&rdquo;</a></p> <p> In the individual market, the average nationwide premium increase has been 99 percent for individuals and 140 percent for families from 2013-2017, according to an eHealth<a href=";p=irol-newsArticle&amp;ID=2238935"> report</a>.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Hadley Heath Manning</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">, director of policy with the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum, told Western Journalism, &ldquo;Obamacare started with a bad premise, that everyone should have the same health insurance coverage and that insurance should be used for nearly every health care transaction.&rdquo;</span></span></strong></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&ldquo;This has only limited patients&rsquo; choices: Most people have few options among health insurance plans, and those plans dictate where we receive care through limited provider networks,&rdquo; she said.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> According to the <a href="">Heritage Foundation</a>, 70 percent of U.S. counties have only one or two insurers offering coverage through the Obamacare exchange. Some areas of the country face having no insurers on the exchange at all in 2018, according to <a href="">Bloomberg</a>.</p> <p> Both Manning and Cannon agree that if the goal is to bring true reform to the health care system, the answer is going to have to be less government control and a more free-market economy.</p> <p> &ldquo;A better policy would be one that entrusts individuals and families with the freedom to choose coverage that&rsquo;s right for them, without forcing them to buy a one-size-fits-all policy,&rdquo; Manning said.</p> <p> She added, &ldquo;Allowing individuals and families greater choices in insurance plans outside of what&rsquo;s offered by employers (by offering the same tax relief to individually-purchased plans) would be another important step.&rdquo;</p> <p> &ldquo;Congress needs to enact reforms that make health care more affordable, rather than just subsidize unaffordable care,&rdquo; Cannon <a href="">contended</a>. &ldquo;To make health insurance more affordable, Congress should free consumers and employers to purchase health insurance licensed by states other than their own.&rdquo; This would create a nationwide market, creating a far greater pool of people, instead of 50 tightly regulated smaller markets.</p> <p> Cannon also said Congress should significantly increase the cap on Health Savings Accounts as a means to create more competition in the health care market.</p> <p> Currently the amount of tax-free dollars employers and employees can contribute to health savings accounts is $3,400 for individuals and $6,750 for a family.</p> <p> Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. David Brat, R-Va., <a href="">introduced legislation</a> in 2016, based on Cato&rsquo;s recommendation, to create &ldquo;Large HSAs,&rdquo; increasing the limits to $9,000 and $18,000, respectively.</p> <p> The legislation &ldquo;would allow tax-free HSA funds to purchase health insurance, over-the-counter medications and direct primary care. It would eliminate the mandate that HSA holders purchase a government-designed high-deductible health plan,&rdquo; <a href="">explained</a> Cannon.</p> <p> The Large HSAs would empower employees to opt for going into the marketplace and purchasing the insurance that is best for them rather than what is simply offered by the employer.</p> <p> By decoupling people&rsquo;s insurance plans directly from their employers, it would also address the issue of pre-existing conditions for many, because they would be able to maintain continuous coverage, even if they changed jobs.</p> <p> &ldquo;The health care system, such as it is, serves the needs of people other than the consumers who it is supposed to serve,&rdquo; said Cannon.</p> <p> Congress has the opportunity, with Obamacare&rsquo;s many failings, to institute true reform that Americans can cheer for years to come.</p> HeathFri, 23 Jun 2017 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWith Senate healthcare bill in the picture, Obamacare debate hinges on community rating<p> Republican Senators have released their <a href="">health reform bill</a>, legislation that attempts to strike the balance necessary to pass the Senate with at least 50 votes. As is often the case with compromise, this bill will either succeed in pleasing everyone &ndash; or will please no one.</p> <p> Like the House bill, the Senate bill will repeal the individual and employer mandates, expand HSAs, repeal most of the ACA&#39;s taxes, and importantly, allow states to opt out of the Essential Health Benefits (federal rules that force everyone to pay more money for certain services even if they do not need them), but keeps the age-26 rule, and guaranteed issue (the requirement that insurers offer policies to everyone).</p> <p> Also like the House bill, the Senate bill reforms the structure of federal Medicaid funding to a per-capita allotment, using an even more conservative formula for funding the program for low-income people.</p> <p> But in important ways, the Senate bill is less conservative than the <a href="">House-passed version of the American Health Care Act</a>: Where the House converted the Affordable Care Act subsidies to flat age-based tax credits, the Senate would effectively keep the ACA subsidies as is, with minor tweaks. It would slow the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion, which is likely to improve the 10-year coverage projections from the Congressional Budget Office.</p> <p> As far as the waivers available to states, the Senate bill would not allow states to escape community rating &ndash; the requirement that insurers offer the same prices to everyone regardless of health status and other risk factors.</p> <p> All of these points are likely to get pushback from conservatives, not just within the Senate (like Sens. Lee, Cruz, Paul), but also from House conservatives if the legislation <a href="">goes to conference</a>. And these moves to the middle will put the plan at risk for shouts of &quot;Obamacare Lite!&quot; from groups that oppose Obamacare.</p> <p> It&#39;s worth noting that on two points &ndash; subsidies and Medicaid &ndash; the difference between the House and Senate is more or less a matter of math: To what extent will health insurance subsidies be means-tested versus age-based? One can imagine a compromise that incorporates both age and income in the subsidy equation. How long will the federal government fund the Medicaid expansion? The House and Senate could change the percentages of federal support for the expansion during years 2020 through 2024 to meet in the middle.</p> <p> But the policy about community rating is a binary choice. Either lawmakers will allow it, or they won&#39;t. Allowing it, even in &quot;Mother-may-I&quot; waivers, where states must ask permission to do so, has earned House Republicans public ire. Why? Because the public doesn&#39;t much like the idea of people with &quot;pre-existing conditions&quot; facing higher premiums than relatively healthy people. And the public may not be aware of the downside of community rating: higher premiums and lower quality healthcare all around.</p> <p> When asked about community rating in context (with information about how this rule affects costs and quality of care), public support flips <a href="">upside down</a>. The takeaway for the GOP is clear: Focus on explaining why repealing community rating is necessary, how doing so will result in lower premiums and more stable markets.</p> <p> Ultimately, the internal Republican health policy debate boils down to this: Will they let insurance companies risk-rate policies (a core concept in insurance)?</p> <p> Even when the House bill allowed this, it was under extremely limited circumstances: Only when an applicant had a coverage gap of 2 months (63 days) could insurers consider health in pricing. And even so, the insurer could charge higher premiums for a temporary period, limited at one-year maximum. But the GOP has struggled to explain this policy, the reasons for it, and its potential effects (lower premiums and increased access), in a message environment driven by fear-mongering from the Left.</p> <p> Let&#39;s hope conservative members in both chambers take up the mantle of freer markets in health insurance and move the public, and the policy, in a better direction.</p> HeathThu, 22 Jun 2017 09:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumShould security be ramped up for lawmakers? • Bulls & Bears HeathSat, 17 Jun 2017 11:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum