Tag Archives: Obamacare

3 Videos That Explain the Government Shutdown

Yesterday, after Congress failed to pass a new budget (or a continuing resolution to give them more time to work out a budget), the federal government was shutdown. But what does that mean? It means that government services deemed “non-eseential” were closed until Congress passes a bill to allow them to re-open and some 800,000 government employees are currently not working.

VlogBrother Hank Green (the other VlogBrother is NYT Bestelling author John Green) posted a video yesterday that more clearly explains what it means when your government shuts down, what services are effected, and the deeper root of this problem:

But why is the government shutting done? 

To answer that question we turn to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)  from Massachusetts. On Monday, September 30, Senator Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor about her disbelief of the current situation. “[The shutdown] is a last gasp of hope for those that can’t deal with the reality of this democracy,” is a quote from Warren’s speech that you have probably seen plastered all over your Facebook pages. Senator Warren drops even more knowledge about the Tea Party contingent of the House of Representatives forcing this shut down as a way to gut the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) in the full version of the speech below:

Wait, this is about Obamacare? Didn’t the Supreme Court already say it was constitutional? 

They did. The Affordable Care Act has been through all the proper steps to become a law – passed by the House and Congress, singed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has checked off all the verses in that infamous School of Rock video we all had to watch in Civics class. And Obamacare is exempt from the government shutdown so it still went into effect yesterday, October 1, making the entire situation even more infuriatingly pointless.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a joke when explaining the reality is too baffling. Jon Stewart may have made the best metaphor possible on Monday night’s “The Daily Show” with a new segment “Rockin’ Shutdown Eve.”

In essence, politicians are playing chicken with the paychecks of almost 1 million government workers at stake. They have suspended vital services to underprivileged children and the elderly to bargain for their ideological ideals rather than by their desire to do what is best for this country, and that is unacceptable.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, supporter of the Affordable Care Act or not, we can all agree that politicians need to stop holding America hostage for their own agendas – and that goes for both sides. We the people elected Congress to represent and work for us, and they need to do better. That’s really what you need to know about the government shutdown.

What do you think of the shutdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Will “Obamacare” Improve Access to Preventative and Integrative Medicine?

The StethoscopeAlthough passed into law back in 2010, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system, commonly referred to as “Obamacare”, is beginning to gain media attention once again as the October 1st enrollment date approaches.

A significant number of people (40% of Americans) not only don’t understand this legislation, but cannot even confirm that it is, in fact, law. Although I am at least with it enough to know that it exists, I admit that the details of the ACA and what it will truly look like in practice is a source of confusion for me. If you want to try and make sense of the ACA for yourself, you can find information here, here and here.

As a health professional, I support the idea of accessible healthcare. As a naturopathic doctor, I also believe in the power of a preventative and integrative approach to medicine.  It’s with a belief in this approach that I am most interested to see how the complete roll-out of the ACA will ultimately make a mark on health, both financial and physical, in this country.

A specific clause of the ACA, Section 2706, is at the heart of both the preventative and integrative medicine debate. This clause requires that insurance companies “shall not discriminate” against any health provider with a state-recognized license. Again, coming from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, this is a compelling statement. Although I’ve been licensed and recognized as a primary care physician in California since 2005, participating as a provider though major health insurance plans has not been an available option for me. Most plans cover traditional providers: MDs, DOs and perhaps RDs. This means that although I have valuable, largely preventative and low-cost treatments to offer, they are out of reach to most people. A $90, 30-minute visit is quite reasonable…unless you’re used to paying a $10 co-pay.

Given what I have been able to tease out of the research I’ve done on the ACA and Section 2706, it seems a more integrative approach to health options will largely be up to interpretation by each individual state. Hopefully, overtime, and assuming the ACA survives long enough to truly become successful, best practices will emerge and states will adopt a more consistent approach to the delivery of preventative and integrative services.

A recent piece in The Washington Post interviewed a leader within the naturopathic community, Dr. Jane Guiltinan, about her predictions and hopes for the future of healthcare in our country as a result of this piece of legislation. In the piece she quoted an often referred to belief in naturopathic care,

Health is more than the absence of disease.

If we really want to shift the status of health in our country, it seems a mental shift by insurance companies, state government and society at large may be required first.

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Chelsea Roff: Life Without Health Insurance


On the afternoon of the election, I sat counting ceiling tiles at my local Planned Parenthood clinic.

“Have you ever been to a Planned Parenthood clinic before?” the receptionist asked me when I approached the front desk.

“No ma’am.”

“Please fill out these forms. All your information will be kept confidential.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I found a seat in the back corner of the waiting area and slowly raised my eyes to look around the crowded room. To my right, there was a young girl — maybe 15 or 16 years old — with her arms crossed rigidly over her chest. She was wearing fishnet stockings, a transparent black tank top, and dark eyeliner painted thickly along the lids under her eyes. I wondered why she was here. She looked too young for an annual pap smear.

I looked back down at the forms on my clipboard:

Name: Chelsea Roff

Birthdate: 7/30/1989

Insurance? No

To my right, I heard the door open again and in walked another woman — probably 35 — wearing lululemon pants and a long, flowy shirt that easily could have served as a dress. Her hair was dark and curly, her skin a sun-kissed bronze. She approached the reception desk timidly, her eyes darting rapidly around the room.

“I’m not an American citizen,” she said to the receptionist. Her accent sounded British… maybe South African. “Will they still see me?”

“Yes, of course, honey. Do you have an appointment?

“No.”

“Fill out these forms. We’ll get you in.”

I  looked back down at the clipboard in my lap, subconsciously breathing a sigh of relief for the woman at the desk. What was she here for? Emergency contraception? Abortion? STD test? Was she pregnant? I wondered if she had a national health care system in her country of origin, and thought about how frightening it would be to have a medical emergency happen and be so far from home.

Finishing my paperwork, I re-approached the reception desk, getting in line behind a mother-daughter couple and a  young man. To my left I saw a small framed sign on the wall adjacent to me:

THE TRUTH ABOUT TEEN PRIVACY

We encourage teens to discuss their health care concerns with their parents or other adults, but you can give us your own permission for the following:

  • Birth Control
  • Pregnancy test
  • Abortion services
  • Sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment

You can also talk to us about the following and be sure they will remain private:

  • Alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, or drugs
  • Personal, school, or family issues
  • Sex and sexuality issues

I thought about my younger sister, about the handful of times I’d walked her into a clinic like this. I’d forgotten what that was like… being underage and in the foster care system, Planned Parenthood the only place you knew to go.

Just then, my phone buzzed in my purse. I pulled it out, seeing a new text message from an unknown number:

“Get out + vote! Make sure your voice is heard + vote counted. Follow YogaVotes on Facebook +Twitter for election day updates.”

I smiled at the irony. Somehow I managed to schedule my first appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic on the day of our national election — a day that, without doubt, would decide the fate of whether these clinics would continue to exist at all. I thought about what was at stake… access to basic STD testing, women’s health services for those without health insurance, a safe place for teens to receive medical care and advice without the risk of getting kicked out by their parents. I  wondered where I would go if this clinic wasn’t here. I wondered how many women I knew would say that Planned Parenthood had saved their lives.

I haven’t had medical insurance since I was seventeen. In fact, the last time I had coverage, I was on Medicaid — a federally-funded program that provides free or low-cost health coverage to more than 50 million children and families. Because of a “pre-existing condition” I experienced in my teens, I’ve been rejected by insurance companies each and every time I’ve applied for coverage as an adult. Now, I’m in the long, arduous process of trying to attain coverage under California’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), a program which — thanks to Obamacare — will offer health coverage to medically-uninsurable individuals until the legislation goes into full effect in January 2014 (I’ll be writing more about PCIP in a forthcoming article).

My experience at Planned Parenthood that day prompted to think more deeply about healthcare in the United States — and more specifically, about how the other 50+ million Americans who are uninsured in the United States fare when health issues arise.

Who are these 50 million Americans — are they young, old, rich, poor, educated, too stupid or lazy (as many conservatives often imply) to purchase health insurance?

Where does an uninsured woman go when her Planned Parenthood doctor finds a lump in her breast? What about uninsured children — how many are there, and what do parents do when their gets a 106 degree fever in the middle of the night and they can’t afford an ER visit? Is healthcare a basic human right, or a privilege reserved for the wealthy?

While I have many friends and colleagues who shun politics; for me, the issues at stake in the 2012 election were far too personally impactful to turn away. From the moment I heard Mitt Romney unequivocally declare that, “on my first day if elected President of the United States, I will act to repeal Obamacare,” I knew just how high the stakes were. Had Obama not been re-elected, my hope for finally having health insurance would have been squashed. The one clinic that I — and so many women I know — depend on would likely have lost federal funding. Voting was not merely a symbolic act of civic engagement… it was a public statement of what I want and need from my government: the institutional support necessary to preserve life.

On Friday, I put out a call to my Facebook friends:

“If you are uninsured, have been for at least 6 mos, and would be willing to participate in a brief (anonymous) interview, please email me.”  

I was absolutely astounded at the volume (and diversity) of responses I received. In just 24 hours, I had over 50 messages in my inbox — emails that contained heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and eye-opening stories about how people across America are living without health insurance. Some had boycotted insurance industry and firmly believed that they were better off for it — others had been trying to attain affordable care for over a decade. I realized that I would never be able to unpack all the issues contained in those emails in a single article — and so began the series I’m starting today, Life Without Health Insurance.

The Life Without Health Insurance Series will examine the questions listed above, as well as a host of other issues related to healthcare around the world. Here is a tentative, non-ordered list of the articles I envision for this series:

1. Is Access to Affordable Healthcare a Human Right?
2. Taking Care of Your Vagina without Health Insurance
3. Raising a Sick Child without Health Insurance
4. So You Have a Pre-Existing Condition…
5. When Emergencies Happen: Where to Go When You’re Uninsured
6. Do Healthy People Really Need Insurance?
7. Preventative Care in the Health Insurance Industry
8. Obamacare: What the Mandate Means for You
9. How the Affordable Care Act Will Impact the Economy
10. Beyond America: Models of Healthcare Around the World

I look forward to beginning this discussion with you, and I hope it can be a catalyst for all of us — both those with and without insurance — to have a more meaningful dialogue about what we want from our government when it comes to healthcare. If there are any issues related to healthcare you’re particularly interested in learning (or talking) about, please share them in the comments section below.

I am still accepting stories of people living without health insurance in the United States, so if you would like to participate in a brief email interview please send me a message at chelsea [at] intent.com. I will send you back a list of questions, and any answers you give will remain anonymous should I choose to use them in the series.

Photo Credit: Strangely, B

photo by: Alex E. Proimos

Deepak Chopra: Obama, 2012 and the Mousetrap Factor

Although pundits declared that Mitt Romney emerged from the contentious primary season in a damaged state, the Presidential race isn’t as imbalanced as it should be. Romney is considered unlikable ,too rich to appeal to working-class voters, and he registers an “eh” from large swaths of the Republican base.

But President Obama finds himself in a trap.  Acting as the only adult in the room should have gradually shaken some sense into his critics. Obama doesn’t name call or falsify the facts. He exhibits tremendous intelligence, flexibility, and a cool head in a crisis. Most economists would say that his policies saved the economy from a meltdown, and at this point, even with a sluggish growth rate of 2.2% (still three times higher than the growth projected for Germany), the country has done better under Obama than it could possibly have under John McCain.

But the trap might still snap shut. Obama is in danger of being “Carterized.” Romney is using a simplistic but powerful line: This President is a nice guy who is in over his head. What makes this tactic effective is that the right has seized the narrative and made a convincing case built on false claims.   Here are a few:

1. In his first two years, Obama got everything he wanted, but his economic policies failed. In truth, Republicans threatened to filibuster 80% of Democratic initiatives in the Senate in 2009. Entrenched opposition from “the party of no” crippled many necessary economic steps.

2. TARP was a massive failure that ran up the deficit. In reality, TARP funds have been largely paid back. Detroit was rescued, and to begin with, the bailout of Wall St. began under the Bush administration. Both sides should be thankful that it did. In the transition to the Obama inauguration, there was literally no leadership from the outgoing administration. Obama had to confront governmental paralysis as well as a collapsing economy.

3. Obamacare has been a disaster. In reality, the only provisions that have kicked in, such as forbidding exclusion from health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, are enormously popular.  The real problem with the health care act is that the Republicans twisted it into an unworkable scheme that didn’t cut costs, and thus engineered the very legislation that they now decry. Sneaky politics and unfair to the country, but so far a large sector of the public is buying the story.

4. Fiscal stimulus has been a flop. In reality, objective analysis shows that Keynesian theory was right. Government dollars got multiplied in an effective way. The real problem was not having a big enough stimulus. Look at lagging, recession-ridden Britain for an example of what the right’s favorite policy – budget cutting and austerity – actually leads to.

5. Because Obama is unfriendly to business and entrepreneurship, the economy hasn’t recovered. In reality, private hiring is more or less back to pre-recession levels (not the best news, however, since even more jobs need to be added to accommodate new workers entering the work force). The actual loss of jobs that plagues us comes from government cuts at the state and local level. The right’s mantra that government doesn’t create jobs is pure myth, since it certainly can uncreate them.  Since the right’s deficit binge promotes even more cuts in government jobs, adopting their policies would get us deeper into unemployment.

6. The economy is on the brink of collapse under this administration.  In reality, the gross national product, as of the last quarter, has reached its pre-recession high.

If the facts surprise you, then you understand how easily the mousetrap could snap shut. Lackluster support of the President will be a major factor. Romney is certainly an “eh” candidate, but he is being boosted by falsehoods and distortions that even Democrats seem to fall for.  There is a small contingent of pundits who say that Obama should run on his considerable achievements rather than run away from them. If only he could. While the achievements are there, it’s not clear that he can seize the narrative from the right.  The country is in a sour, fretful, anxious mood. Five dollar a gallon gas could swing the election. Voters are too volatile to predict, and perhaps too rattled to talk sense to.

But if the mousetrap does close, progressives will look back and realize that apathy comes with a high cost. At least cast a vote for the truth if not for the hope of 2008.

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