If you are an American woman, be afraid of the Trump administration’s latest attempts to repeal Obamacare. If you are an American woman living in poverty, be very afraid. Connecticut has taken note. During the legislative session that just ended, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to protect 21 health benefits (such as contraceptives and mammograms) that Trumpcare would obliterate. Sadly, that bill died in the House.
Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs) in Connecticut have expanded services, upped their staffing and renovated their facilities mostly due to increased revenue streams from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Connecticut and the 30 other states that opted for the ACA Medicaid expansion program have benefitted from billions of dollars in additional core grant funding, with Connecticut receiving $150.7 million from 2011 to 2016, according to a January report by the Congressional Research Service. Health centers in Connecticut used some of that funding to hire professionals to enroll thousands of residents in health insurance—residents who were previously uninsured and used the centers for their health care. Now the centers are serving about 70,000 more insured patients, mostly covered by Husky Health plans. The cost of treating uninsured patients has declined by about $10 million since 2012, according to Deb Polun, director of government affairs and media relations at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.
Since 2011, Connecticut has issued more than 39,000 new Medicaid cards to prisoners returning to communities, connecting them to health care services with the goal of keeping them healthy and out of prison. This initiative, which gives ex-offenders the opportunity to see a primary care physician on a regular basis and access critical mental health and drug-abuse treatment programs, exists because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and Medicaid pays most of the costs. Recidivism data show that the initiative is working, state officials say. Yearly, the Court Support Services Division (CSSD) refers approximately 20,000 adults on probation to various behavioral health programs and tracks them for 12 months. In 2016, CSSD reported that 23.1 percent of adults who completed their referral program were rearrested, a five-year low since CSSD started tracking in 2012.
Now that America has elected Donald J. Trump as their 45th president, how might the New York entrepreneur’s administration affect women and children in the next few years? Some of this is pure conjecture, since Trump’s policy talks have been notably short on details. Trump has, however, repeatedly said he intends to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which would have grave effect on hundreds of thousands of families, if not more. Since 2010, the ACA has cut in half the number of uninsured citizens to a historic low of 8.6 percent of citizens, or 27.3 million people . A 2015 Congressional Budget Office study said that repealing the program would eliminate insurance coverage for about 22 million in 2017, and coverage of birth control and critical prenatal care might no longer be offered.
Dozens of Connecticut doctors accepted six-figure payments from drug and medical device manufacturers in 2015 for consulting, speaking, meals and travel, with six of the 10 highest-paid physicians affiliated with academic institutions, new federal data show. The top 10 doctors – less than 0.1 percent of the 11,000 who received payments – took in $3.6 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total $24.9 million paid out. Among them is the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Alpern, who received $445,398 in 2015 from two companies – Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie – in consulting fees, meals and travel expenses for serving on the boards of both companies. In 2014, he received $458,194 from the two companies. The Yale medical school began a research partnership with AbbVie in 2013, after the pharmaceutical company spun off from Abbott Laboratories.
Over a dozen of the cooperative health insurers that started under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, but leaders of Connecticut’s co-op say it is on track to turn a profit next year. “We’re very viable,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of Wallingford-based HealthyCT, a member-run, nonprofit health insurance co-op. “There are a lot of stable pieces of” HealthyCT. The co-op is enduring when others have died off, he said, by strategically adapting to changes in the ACA, and diversifying its portfolio. About a third of its business is insuring individuals, a third is small group policies and a third is large group insurance policies, he said.
People with severe mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population and 68 percent of the mentally ill have at least one chronic physical health condition, studies show. They don’t receive the care they need because mentally ill people are often discriminated against by medical practitioners and their mental illness can make it difficult for them to be proactive about their care, according to several mental health professionals. Daniela Giordano, public policy director of National Alliance for Mental Illness of Connecticut, said the problem is often a lack of understanding of mental illness by some health care providers. Giordano said she knows of people with mental illness whose “thoughts and comments were dismissed” by medical providers who view these patients through “a different lens.”
A state project is addressing such barriers to necessary medical care faced by low-income mentally ill people. Under the program, called Behavioral Health Homes (BHH) and based in mental health facilities where people are already receiving outpatient services, staff members coordinate participants’ mental health and primary care.
About 650 U.S. women die each year during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to other countries – and not just newly developing ones – that figure is abysmal. In fact, according to a new study from the World Health Organization and others, the U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate has actually risen between 1990 and 2013. Other countries on that list include North Korea and Zimbabwe. The gross domestic product of Zimbabwe is $13.5 billion.
Kathy Navaroli, 50, of Windsor, hadn’t seen a primary care doctor in years when she decided to go for a physical this summer. She didn’t ask about preventive care screenings, such as a mammogram or Pap test, in part because she worried they might involve an insurance co-pay or deductible. Her household income is below $30,000 a year. “I got a physical, they did some blood work, and that was it,” she said. Kerrishian McCants, 31, of Hartford, a mother of four, has a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure, but has not discussed those possible risks with her doctor.
Doctors and clinicians from a wide array of specialties will offer their insights about the importance of preventive care at an upcoming community health forum in Hartford, featuring a keynote address by Dr. Jewel Mullen, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health. “Get Health Wise: The Benefits of Preventive Care” on Oct. 7, hosted by the Conn. Health I-Team, will give attendees the opportunity to hear presentations from doctors and clinicians at various health care stations. A panel discussion – with a question and answer period – will follow.