healthcare

“Let’s Not Be Patient Patients”: Protecting the Future of Healthcare Under Trump

Author: Alli Jean, Current Events/Politics

Despite years of lamenting of the catastrophic affects of the Affordable HealthCare Act [ACA], the GOP and Trump yet again failed to repeal and replace it, thanks to a 51-49 vote.

While the ACA will continue protecting millions of Americans for now, there’s another aspect of the healthcare debate that’s been forgotten: the commitment by this administration to expand, and continue to expand, nationally funded research that has been responsible for the eradication and prevention of countless illnesses over the past few decades. The potential healthcare reforms will affect all of us, but the affects on medical research are not at the forefront of the story. Research departments could experience the potential affects of all the proposed budget cuts firsthand, and what happens on the national level has a trickle-down affect.

The impact of cutting funding in Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would affect the National Cancer Institute, which would be hit with a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. And to top it off, the administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion — affecting all aspects of its operation, including grant funding to research departments.

What’s more, these are just a few examples. Not only do these cuts threaten future research, but they could cut vital resources for the millions of patients every year, who now have a prospect of a life without a degenerative illness — and those who experience far less adverse drug reactions and other side effects due to the success of clinical trials. These budget cuts could eliminate the funding for current trial patients, because investigational medications are almost always covered by the sponsor of clinical trials. A funding cut could leave patients with either not getting medication, or waiting until drugs get approved and become commercially available, and then, they would pay astronomically higher prices.

As someone who works for a local Institutional Review Board (IRB) whose job it is to ensure the rules and research regulations are followed, and that investigation ensures that the rights, safety, and welfare of its subjects are protected, this would be devastating to patients who are already a vulnerable population due to their illness. A single treatment of some chemotherapy drugs, with good insurance, costs approximately $3,000; without insurance, that same one-time treatment can cost close to $20,000. From behavioral health, to HIV treatment and prevention, to cardiac devices, cutting this vital funding would be going backwards.

Luckily, the 21st Century Cures Act passed overwhelmingly in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with strong bipartisan support, and was signed into law on December 13, 2016.  “This legislation provides the NIH with critical tools and resources to advance biomedical research across the spectrum, from foundational basic research studies to advanced clinical trials of promising new therapies,” the NIH explains. “One of the biggest affects of the Cures Act, will be allocating $1.8 billion dollars over seven years for The Cancer Moonshot to accelerate cancer research aims to make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving practitioner’s ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.”

While the 21st Century Cures Act is a step in the right direction, Trump is a ticking time bomb, who irradicably and unanimously makes decisions that directly oppose logic and progress. The legislation is only in place for now, and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Now is the time to educate yourself, and if you are able, donate to the NIH to help the life-saving efforts being conducted by nurses, physicians, and clinicians across the country. And be ready to call on Congress to act if research funding is threatened.

At some point, we and our loved ones will be the recipient of life-saving medicine in the specialties of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, oncology, mental health, and countless others. Our future is too important not to protect.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Let’s Talk About Healthcare: Can We Keep the Affordable Care Act?

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Current Events/Politics

Everyone seems to be talking about healthcare. And they should be, and you should be, too. This bill will have an effect on millennials, but how?

Let’s break this down… with some help from The New York Times. 

The Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare,” was passed in 2010 and allowed more Americans to be covered by health insurance for lower rates, and encouraged all Americans to get health insurance before they got sick. While the act definitely had some flaws, the intention behind it was to make sure that everyone had health care. One of the biggest topics during the election debates was how each candidate planned on improving Obamacare.

Since Obamacare was enacted, a lot of Republicans have wanted it removed, mainly due to the fact that in order to afford Obamacare, richer Americans are being taxed heavier. During the election process, Donald Trump made it clear that he wanted Obamacare repealed. As he transitioned into power, the repeal was one of the first things he set in motion.

The bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would reduce Medicaid and would allow insurance companies to turn away more people with “preexisting conditions,” which is quite the opposite of what Obamacare is all about. No one should be turned away from healthcare, but evidently that is a difficult concept for people to grasp. 

However, repealing the Affordable Care Act may not be in the best interest for Americans, as it was just revealed that repealing the act would cause 22 million Americans to become uninsured by 2026. Twenty-two. Million. Americans. Oh boy.

Many senators have come forward saying that should the bill to repeal Obamacare reach the Senate, they would vote against it. Senator Rand Paul stated “it’s worse to pass a bad bill than no bill.”

The choice now is to either withdraw the bill so that it can be improved upon, or keep it in so that it will inevitably be destroyed.

This begs the question — what can be done to improve Obamacare? Is it maintainable? Is it broken, or does it not need to be fixed? Does it beat the proposed alternative? Because the current plan seems to be causing more harm than good. It’s up to Trump and his administration to figure out a happy medium, so that Obamacare can be repaired while millions of Americans still get to keep their health insurance.

How will the proposed alternative, if passed, affect millennials? Well, many of us also have pre-existing conditions just like members of other generations. But that’s not the least of it. If millennials don’t purchase health insurance because the cost is just too high, when there is actually a medical problem that requires attention, we won’t be able to pay for treatment. Obamacare required the purchase of health insurance, and as a result, millennial medical debt decreased by 20% since 2010.

If the proposed alternative is passed, that figure has the potential to rise. We’ll be back in debt. We’ll be shopping for poor quality options. And worst of all, we won’t be healthy.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Kidney Dialysis is Something We All Need to Better Understand

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

Most people have heard about kidney dialysis, but do we fully understand it? Last Week Tonight With John Oliver has shed some light on it, and now, we want to shed some. According to the National Kidney Foundation, approximately 660,000 Americans are being treated for kidney failure — and 468,000 of them are undergoing dialysis.

Let’s look at what dialysis patients truly go through, and why we all need to be made aware of it.

There is an entire for-profit industry centered around kidney dialysis.
Of course, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies are all for-profit, but kidney dialysis companies are an entity unto themselves. Oliver calls out Frensius Medical Care and DaVita as two of the giants of the industry — but spends most of his commentary on DaVita, where its own CEO compares its service to the drive-thru service you receive at Taco Bell. For Taco Bell, that’s great. For kidney dialysis, it’s borderline inhumane, and is evidence that the focus is on money rather than the patient.

Many patients currently undergoing kidney dialysis don’t realize that kidney transplants are an option for them.
According to a 2014 study from Johns Hopkins University, one-third of kidney dialysis patients were not made aware of the transplant option before being sent for dialysis. What’s more, their doctors are required to inform them of every available option in the first place. And it’s clear that transplants are the better option — according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, life expectancy for patients on dialysis is five years, while those who receive transplants are expected to live 12-20 more years with a kidney from a live donor, and 8-12 more years with a kidney from a deceased donor.

Not all dialysis centers are up to par in terms of cleanliness.
Yup, that’s right. Before going to a dialysis center, please check to make sure it has a high rating in terms of cleanliness and disinfecting. Based on a 2010 report from ProPublica, “dirty or unsafe conditions, including dried blood on treatment chairs, walls, and floors, were noted” in 1,500 dialysis centers.

Richard Nixon (yes, that Richard Nixon) called for a 1972 law that provided government funding to any patients requiring kidney dialysis.
There’s a lot you can say about Richard Nixon during his presidency, but his focus was clearly not on money in this case — and on care for patients who have to undergo an exhausting, debilitating process on a sometimes tri-weekly basis.

Because so many more people have required kidney dialysis in recent years, companies like DaVita opened clinics to accommodate the rising need.
So, like everything else, kidney dialysis has become a business — and it is now more than it ever was. DaVita operates over 2,000 privately owned dialysis clinics across the country, which are accessible to anyone who can pay for private clinics. Treatments at the centers are not covered under Nixon’s dialysis law, as they are privately-funded outpatient clinics. Why the need for the clinics? The cost of federally-funded dialysis only accounts for one percent of the federal budget.

So, with all of these people who need treatment for faulty kidneys, why aren’t there more transplants taking place when it’s the better option?
In 2010, my own father served as a live donor for a childhood friend of mine who required a kidney transplant. But, that doesn’t happen for everyone. Rather than the government creating incentives for donors so that those with faulty kidneys would “keep out of dialysis in the first place,” live donors have become less likely to step forward — for reasons such as the possible denial of life insurance coverage for those like my father who are now living with one kidney. And while the Affordable Care Act protects live donors from being denied health insurance, there’s no telling what will become of that

Bottom line: the process of dialysis is exhausting — as anything that can be described as process requiring “a Brita filter for your blood” would be. And kidney donors, dead or alive, have the power to eliminate a) the business of drive-thru dialysis and b) the need for it altogether.

If we all learned just a little bit more about kidney dialysis — a health issue not getting the attention it deserves in spite of the fact that kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States — maybe we’d be more likely to give of ourselves.

And to declare, #WhenIDiePleaseTakeMyKidneys.

 

Watch the full segment on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver:

Life is a Pre-Existing Condition

Author: Alli Jean, Current Events/Politics

After yesterday,  it’s a bit easier to imagine what the victims of the Titanic sinking must have felt in those final hours before the ship went down.

The lives of the privileged were seen as being more important, and while they were led to safety, thousands of middle and lower class passengers were sentenced to die. Thanks to the GOP Healthcare Vote in the House of Representatives yesterday, unless you’re a member of Congress who can afford to not be concerned, someone close to you will be negatively affected by this bill should it become law if passed by the Senate.

And while whether or not that happens is still up in the air, there are a number of truly chilling things to consider when analyzing today’s events, and the fact that 24 million people could lose their health insurance. Among the most frightening revelations from today…

titanic.jpg

Republicans Care About Their Family, But Not Yours
Proverbs 31:6-7: Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

That’s right, the solution Republican lawmakers have spent seven years writing is not good enough for themselves, as there’s a provision in the repeal that exempts members of Congress from the law. Let that sink in.. we elected these people and the best they can come up with isn’t good enough for themselves?

Also, tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans were included. Not to mention the fact that in several interviews with House Republicans today, many admitted to not even reading the bill in its entirety. If our elected officials have the work ethic of a high school English student hoping to fake their way through a Shakespeare quiz, they don’t deserve to be in office, and certainly shouldn’t have the audacity to put the lives of 99% of the population in jeopardy.

And while I should point out that there were several Republicans who voted against the bill today, the face that a leading political group voted to legalize blocking preventative healthcare should have us very, very worried.

The GOP and Trump Lied About the Repeal.. Over and Over Again
Jeremiah 30:17: For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast.

How many times did we hear Trump say that he would come up with the biggest, Hugest replacement for the “disaster” of Obamacare?

While the Affordable Care Act was far from perfect, this repeal will cause 24 million Americans to lose coverage, while opening the door for millions more who will, due to the provisions surrounding pre-existing conditions and the state by state market places that would be set up. Even this week, Trump proclaimed that his bill would keep the provision to prevent insurance companies from discriminating patients based on pre-existing conditions, but as evidenced by today’s vote and the beer-fest by Republicans afterwards, Paul Ryan and Trump celebrated at and toasted their “victory.”

Perhaps the most tragic part about today is that there are millions of hard-working Trump supporters who were promised protection and cheaper insurance premiums, only to be tricked by Trump, who cares about no one but the wealthy cronies he can rely on to perpetuate his brand and image as a success.

Let’s Talk About Pre-Existing ConditionsC_BqOshXYAAN18F.jpg
Matthew 14:14: When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

The list of “pre-existing” conditions is truly sickening (no pun intended). Many are hereditary and completely un-preventable (including hemophilia, high cholesterol, asthma, celiac disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s). Other pre-existing conditions are directly related to mental health, including eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia, schizophrenia, anxiety, OCD, panic disorders and seasonal affective disorder.

This decision is a death sentence for anyone who develops chronic illness, including a multitude of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, HIV, asthma, gout, cardiac issues, and the list goes on and on.

How can a group of people who preach family values require pregnant women to pay more for health insurance? How can a largely Christian group of men prey on individuals that are already marginalized due to their socioeconomic status, mental state, race, sexual orientation/gender identity and how are victims of domestic assault and rape being punished?

Essentially, Congress has made being a woman a pre-existing condition. And as Jimmy Kimmel shared this week, a baby born with a heart disorder or other chronic disease faces the possibility of never getting health insurance. Explain how that is “pro-life.”

Let me say it again. Unless you are a member of Congress, you WILL be affected if this repeal is enacted by the Senate. Depending on where you live, if you or your loved ones experience any of these conditions, your healthcare will skyrocket. And remember, getting laid off or becoming unable to work could become a death sentence.

Our lives depend on fighting this together.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

The Real Deal: Working in Mental Health

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Career Advice

For almost six years, I have worked as a Mental Health Professional on the adult inpatient psychiatric unit of my local hospital. For most, the phrase “inpatient psychiatry” conjures up images of lobotomies, “electric shock therapy” without anesthesia (thanks to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestand animalistic behaviors from would-be patients.

Well, I’m here to tell you that 90% of what you would expect from a “psych ward” does not occur, at least not where I work. Some days are adrenaline-filled and hectic while others can be boring and tedious.

You’re in charge of the safety of others
The most important task done by every member of our unit staff is that of “observation rounds,” wherein the whereabouts of each patient are verified and documented at regular intervals. The person holding the all-important clipboard is the eyes and ears of the unit, and is responsible for the safety of the patients, visitors and staff on our unit.

You will be doing things outside of your job description
As a mental health professional, I complete my rounds before or after I help pass out breakfast. While the majority of my job involves running groups throughout the day, I also pass out lunch and search for contraband in the belongings patients bring in with them. As with any job, mine is not without paperwork — mental heath professionals complete notes detailing patients’ participation in group activities, as well as any problems that might have occurred through a patient’s interactions with their peers.

It’s fun!
It may sound strange, but it can be a lot of fun! We invite patients to play games with one another, we watch movies together, and getting to know people from all walks of life are some of the perks of the gig. The older patients we serve have an endless amount of stories from their younger days, and many times we are able relate to our patients through our common interests or similar backgrounds.

But, it can be difficult as well
That is truly the nature of mental illness — that it can strike any person at any time regardless of what kind of education you’ve received or the title you hold. It does not discriminate between sex, age or race.  It is disheartening at best to hear patients admit that their families understand very little of what they are going through. Surely, if anyone could simply choose not to be depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by strange compulsions or thoughts of suicide, no one would have a mental illness.

You do give out medicine and other treatments
Yes, doctors prescribe medications (antidepressants and antispsychotics among them). And yes, patients are restrained when it is deemed necessary for the safety of themselves, their fellow patients and the staff. And finally, yes, Electroconvulsive Therapy (not electric shock therapy!) is still used today and I have seen first hand the benefits of such treatment. As a professional at an “acute care” facility, I see patients at their worst and lowest and once they are stabilized they are sent off to their next level of care — either a day hospital program or their own therapist and psychiatrist or some combination of those.

You’re having such a strong impact on people’s lives, and your own
To be in a field that helps people through some of the most trying times in their lives, to keep them safe and send them on their way when the time comes is not only worthwhile but rewarding as well.