With Medical Bills Soaring, Nonprofits, Crowdfunding, Payment Plans Offer Some Debt Relief

In February, Lori Dingwell of Waterbury tested positive for COVID-19. She says she has yet to recover fully. The 53-year-old has seen her primary care physician, a neurologist, ophthalmologist, retinal specialist, infectious disease expert, and rheumatologist. After a host of scans, blood tests and “an abnormal spinal tap,” Dingwell—a member of the COVID long-hauler support group Survivor Corps—said physicians had no answers to help explain her malady. Adding to her woes, she racked up nearly $10,000 in medical debt.

More Women Than Men Put Off Medical Appointments Due To Pandemic, Survey Finds

Like many women throughout Connecticut, Isabella Vasquez of New Britain has missed or postponed health care appointments due to the pandemic. For the 23-year-old house cleaner, postponing medical appointments became necessary when the COVID-19 crisis affected childcare for her 2-year-old son. “I would have to not go to my appointments sometimes because I didn’t have childcare,” she said. “When COVID struck, that’s when daycare became less reliable.” If her son sneezed or had a runny nose, daycare would not accept him, Vasquez explained. More women than men have either missed medical appointments or postponed the care they thought they needed during the height of the pandemic, according to a recent DataHaven survey released in October of more than 5,000 randomly selected state residents.

Birth Control: Lots Of Options, But Scant Guidance

When University of Connecticut student Natalie Plebanek was 16 years old, she suffered heavy menstrual periods and subsequent fainting spells. But when she asked her pediatrician about a prescription for birth control pills, proven to reduce menstrual bleeding significantly, the doctor balked, citing a common myth. “She thought I would become extremely sexually active,” Plebanek said. Now 21, Plebanek is considering a more convenient method of birth control. Seeking advice from a gynecologist about her options, she was handed a brochure.

Obamacare: What’s At Stake If The High Court Strikes Down The Law

Vyanne Dinh, 21, a senior at New York University, will be paying close attention next month when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Thanks to the ACA, the law known as Obamacare, a provision allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26. Dinh, of South Windsor, is covered on her mother’s policy. “If I lost coverage under my parents, I would not know what to do,” Dinh said. “Chances are I would have to handle medical expenses out of pocket, which would definitely cause a financial strain and make me hesitant to go to the doctor’s unless it is a dire emergency.”

“I am also worried about COVID because the risks are too high under current circumstances to be uninsured,” said Dinh.

Children And Parents Feel The Strain Of Confinement

Weeks into staying home from preschool, Betty, 4, threw herself on the floor and had a screaming meltdown. She had had a Zoom meeting with her class earlier that day, and every little thing was setting her off. “We don’t accept screaming in our house,” said Betty’s mother, Laura Bower-Phipps, professor and coordinator of elementary education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. “So, we counted the screams, and when she hit three, my wife and I told her she needed to take a break for four minutes.” Betty took the break, came back and screamed three more times, and again went to her quiet spot for another four minutes. And so, it went on.

Cancer Death Rates Decline, But Income Is A Factor In Survival

Advances in early detection and cancer treatments have resulted in a 27 percent decline in cancer deaths in the U.S. in the last 25 years, but those benefits are slow to trickle down to those who are lower on the socioeconomic scale, according to a report by the American Cancer Society. In the nation’s poorest counties, the cancer mortality rate is 20 percent higher than in the most affluent counties, and “the difference is much larger for cancers that are the most preventable: cervical, colorectal and lung,” said Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of Surveillance Information Services at the American Cancer Society and an author of the study. Robert Ciemniewski, 57, a longtime smoker from Connecticut, was on the wrong side of the statistical divide when he walked into the emergency room in 2017 with breathing difficulties from what he thought was pneumonia. He did have pneumonia, but he also had advanced lung cancer. Ciemniewski had not had a health checkup since 2013, when he quit his job as a mailman to care for his ailing mother.

To-Do List For Governor’s Council On Women Is Long

Last month, newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont created the Council on Women and Girls, modeled after a similar council started under President Obama, which has been allowed to lie fallow under President Trump. The council will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and will include state agency commissioners, as well as the state’s constitutional officers and a handful of legislators. The council’s charge is to plan legislation and policies that work to end gender discrimination. Though Connecticut can be a wonderful place for women, the challenges are marked. • A Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut study says that in the eastern part of the state, women between the ages of 18 and 34 have a higher poverty rate—18 percent—than any other group in the area.

Consumers Feel Sticker Shock As Out-Of-Pocket Health Care Costs Rise

In February, Joan Goldstein of Monroe received a panicked call for help from her wife, Lauren Goldstein. Joan found Lauren rolled up like a ball on the floor in her office bathroom. “I have never seen her sick in 15 years,” Joan said. When Lauren couldn’t stop vomiting, Joan took her to the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, where she received fluids intravenously—“three bags,” Joan said.

The Assault On Contraceptive Care Has A Long Reach

In October, President Donald Trump announced new regulations that loosen the requirements that employers provide coverage for contraceptives, which was a pillar of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Trump’s government expanded the reasons an employer could skip out on coverage on moral or religious objections. If in the recent weeks your employer just got religion, you should know why. Trump is messing with a woman’s important right to accessible and affordable birth control. The birth control mandate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “had a large impact in a short amount of time.” Within two years of the policy taking effect, says Kaiser, just 3 percent of women with employer-sponsored insurance had out-of-pocket expenses for oral contraceptives (the most expensive and the most popular kind).