State of Healthcare 2017

Health care in America was a constant subject of conversations in public venues and political forums in 2017. There has been confusion about health insurance, failed legislation, Executive Orders reversing Obamacare guidelines, tax plans affecting healthcare costs, and the failure to fund healthcare programs that cover millions of low-income Americans. People in the United States continue to count healthcare costs as a major concern.

State of Healthcare 2017

We at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical, but it is difficult to avoid the partisan nature of the changes in health care in America since the Trump administration’s inauguration last year. Donald Trump ran on the platform of repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA; Obamacare), saying it would be “so easy.” He claimed his Obamacare replacement would have “insurance for everybody” and that “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” In practice, all “Trumpcare” bills failed to pass through Congress due to bipartisan disagreement over the destabilization they would cause in millions of Americans to losing insurance and the expected increase in premium costs.

 

Meaningful legislation did not affect Obamacare until Executive Orders allowing insurers to offer low-benefit insurance plans and ending subsidies to insurance companies that help cover low-income Americans. The ACA was also impacted by the tax bill passed late December 2017 that included an end to the individual mandate—a rule requiring most Americans to have health coverage designed to ensure that not only sick people buy insurance, thereby lowering premiums for everyone. Those opting out of insurance will generally be healthier people—leading to increased premiums for those left paying them—and poorer people who may not consider the cost of insurance to be immediately beneficial. Poverty has a major impact on health, with people of all ages under the poverty line having generally poorer health, so lack of insurance could leave those who experience accidents or health conditions with extraordinarily high out-of-pocket costs.

 

Low-income Americans may also be feeling the grip of healthcare costs as government programs have limited funding. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Centers Fund have both faced debilitating cuts as they expired September 30, 2017. They were partially funded until March with the latest temporary federal spending bill, but the uncertainty of future funding has millions of Americans concerned for the health care of their children, themselves, or the jobs of 160,000 healthcare professionals working in community health centers across the nation to help those with low-income and are often covered by CHIP or Medicare/Medicaid.

 

Other unexpected factors have the potential to shake up healthcare policy in America going into 2018. The Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned after it was discovered he was misusing taxpayer funds while overseeing a budget of over $1 trillion meant to finance health programs that affect over 100 million Americans, regulating food and pharmaceutical industries, and sponsoring biomedical research in the United States. Former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar is currently nominated for the position, awaiting Congressional approval. The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) were all fired last week, alarming many healthcare policy analysts. Founded by the Clinton Administration in 1995, PACHA advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policy strategy by unpaid appointees designed to include doctors, members of the healthcare industry, and people living with HIV. The mass dismissal follows six members resigning over the summer, citing the Trump administration’s apparent disinterest in helping the HIV/AIDS community.

 

As said, we at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical—we work in a diverse office with people of varying backgrounds and views—but we believe in being informed and that those in need deserve care. It should be clear that NeedyMeds supports improved access to care as well as lower costs for medications and healthcare services for all.

 

NeedyMeds also encourages Americans to be active in the legislative process: If you have an opinion on the future of the health care or other important issues in the United States, call 202-224-3121 to reach the U.S. Capitol switchboard; from there you can be connected to your elected House Representative or Senator’s office.

NeedyMeds will continue to provide information as the need for assistance navigating the often expensive landscape of health care rises. The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or the NeedyMeds Storylines smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

NeedyMeds in 2017

We’re wrapping up 2017 here at NeedyMeds, and it’s been a big year for us. We celebrated twenty years of providing information to those in need and we have kept true to our original mission to provide information on programs that help people who can’t afford medications and healthcare costs.

 

We have helped over 57,000 on our toll-free helpline in 2017, and saved users over $44 million on their prescriptions with the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card. This year we began a new partnership with Healthcare Storylines to bring you the NeedyMeds Storylines app—a free self-care smartphone app that makes it easy to track your healthcare including medication reminders, appointment calendar, daily mood tracker, and a digital copy of the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card.

 

We presented over 50 online webinars this year, ranging from an overview to our website to special topics about mental health, being your own healthcare advocate, and countless others with some of our very special partners. You can see a list of all our upcoming 2018 webinars on our Webinars page.

 

NeedyMeds has grown from humble beginnings of two people wanting to help patients with prescription costs to a staff of nearly 30 people, plus local volunteers in our office and volunteers across the country helping communities. We continue to be proud of the work we do in a nation with a growing need for information on saving money on healthcare. Ideally, NeedyMeds’ services would not be necessary and people throughout the United States would be able to afford their healthcare without assistance; but so long as there are people in need we will be here as an information resource.

 

We will continue to provide information as the need for assistance navigating the often expensive landscape of healthcare rises. The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. As previously mentioned, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or the NeedyMeds Storylines smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

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Tips for National Influenza Vaccination Week

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week in the U.S. Established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2005, this week highlights the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holidays and beyond. Vaccines against the flu are the best defense against the virus and developing flu-related complications.

 

The CDC holds National Influenza Vaccination Week in December as vaccinations tend to drop quickly after the end of November, leaving many vulnerable during the holiday season. Going on vacation or having relatives visiting from afar can expose people to different strains of the flu than what they have built a immune response to, which can spread illness for those unprotected. The flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of the flu viruses. Yearly vaccinations are recommended because flu viruses are always changing, and each year the vaccine is updated to better match circulating influenza strains.

The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu vaccine every season. Children younger than 2 years old, or children with health problems such as asthma, diabetes, or other chronic conditions are at the highest risk of severe complications of the flu and should get the flu shot. The best way to protect infants under 6 months old is to surround them with people who have been vaccinated.

 

vaccinationAmid reports that the flu vaccine is less effective than usual this year, NeedyMeds is offering more tips to stay healthy in the midst of cold and flu season.

  1. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow. This will reduce the spread of germs through touching objects or one’s face.

  2. Wash hands often, especially after blowing your nose or coughing. The CDC suggests washing using warm water and soap, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds and drying with a single-use towel.

  3. Regularly disinfect common surfaces in your home that your family touches every day, including countertops, telephones, computers, faucets, and doorknobs.

  4. Ensure you and your family eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, gets plenty of rest, and exercises regularly. These steps will keep your immune system in prime shape to help fight off illness.

  5. Know the difference between a cold and the flu. The flu generally comes on strong with severe symptoms, including fever, sore throat, chills, body aches, cough, runny/stuffy nose, diarrhea, vomiting, headache and fatigue. Although colds can exhibit some of the same symptoms, they usually are not as severe and often do not last as long.

  6. It’s also important to know the difference between a cold and seasonal allergies. With the similarities in symptoms, it can be easy to self-medicate for the wrong condition.

    • With a cold, you’re likely to wake up with a sore, painful throat. With allergies, the throat has more of an itch or tickle rather than soreness.

    • Colds follow a relatively slow progression and last for a few days, whereas allergies can come on almost instantly, with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, and congestion striking all at once and can last as long as allergens are in the environment—sometimes a matter of hours, other times for weeks.

    • Sneezing with itchy eyes or mouth are associated with allergies rather than colds.

    • Fevers can appear with colds, but do not affect those suffering from allergies.

    • It’s important to know you don’t have both a cold and allergies, as this can lead to chronic sinus problems if left untreated.

  7. Stay home from school or work if you or your child are sick.

 

For those in need of assistance procuring the influenza vaccine our database of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics has information on over 5500 clinics that offer immunization services. Search your ZIP code to find medical clinics near you that may offer free or low-cost immunizations. Another resource is a web tool called HealthMap Vaccine Finder that shows pharmacies near you that are administering flu shots. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can help with the price of prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter decongestants or fever-reducers. The free discount card is also available as a printable download and in the NeedyMeds Storylines app for iPhone and Android. NeedyMeds also has information on over 1,900 coupons and rebates offered for medications or medical supplies that can be searched by category (such as Cold/Flu or Allergies) or product name.

 

CBO Scores Tax Reform/Healthcare Repeal

This year we have been tracking the evolution of healthcare in the United States under the Trump administration, from the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) bills failing to pass through Congress, the expiration of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) which covers 9 million children—many of whom have chronic health conditions—to Executive Orders undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) to the effect of destabalizing the insurance markets, causing confusion among consumers and higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs. More recently the U.S. Congress has been focused on tax reform, though critics have described efforts as a healthcare repeal disguised as a tax bill. This week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill that, if passed, could take effect on January 1, 2018.

 

For those concerned with America’s growing debt, the CBO analysis finds the $1.4 trillion would be added to the federal deficit over the next decade. Critics decry raising taxes for lower-income families while lowering taxes for those who make over $100,000 annually. The primary concern to poor Americans comes from the tax bill’s effect on health care. The Senate’s tax bill repeals the Obamacare individual mandate that requires almost all Americans to have health insurance or else pay a penalty. As with all previous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the CBO has calculated that the change would cause insurance premiums to rise leading to millions losing their insurance in the coming years.

With no individual mandate, those opting out of buying insurance (most often lower-income people) would no longer face a tax penalty but would also lose tax credits and subsidies from the government that offset the costs for poor Americans. Poverty has a major impact on health, with people of all ages under the poverty line having generally poorer health, so lack of insurance could leave those who experience accidents or health conditions with extraordinarily high out-of-pocket costs.

 

Despite low public support, the Senate aims to vote on the tax bill as early as this week. NeedyMeds will try to keep our users up-to-date on further developments on health care in America. We at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical—we work in a diverse office with people of varying backgrounds and views—but we believe in being informed and that those in need deserve care. It should be clear that NeedyMeds supports improved access to care as well as lower costs for medications and healthcare services for all.

NeedyMeds also encourages Americans to be active in the legislative process: If you have an opinion on the future of the Affordable Care Act or other important issues in the United States, call 202-224-3121 to reach the U.S. Capitol switchboard; from there you can be connected to your elected House Representative or Senator’s office.

NeedyMeds will continue to provide information as the need for assistance navigating the often expensive landscape of health care rises. The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or the NeedyMeds Storylines smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

Health Tips for the Holidays

This week is Thanksgiving in the United States, marking the beginning of the holiday season. The holidays are a great opportunity to enjoy being with loved ones, but they are not without their demands. Physical, emotional, and mental stress can accompany the holiday joy and can make everything a little harder for those already experiencing difficulties with their health. We at NeedyMeds have tips for staying healthy during the holiday season.

  • Travel safely. Last year we shared a blog with tips for traveling, especially for those travelling with a chronic illness. Whether traveling by car or by air: plan ahead, stay safe, and prepare for any personal health needs.

  • Wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean is an important step to avoiding sickness and spreading germs, especially while travelling or preparing food.

  • Stay warm. The holiday season brings winter to much of the United States and cold temperatures can cause health problems, especially the very young and elderly adults. Stay dry and dress warmly in several layers.

  • Manage stress. The holidays can be stressful—familial obligations, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and even less sunlight can contribute to the deterioration of mental health. Balance commitments, down time, and enjoyment; make sure to get enough sleep.

  • Eat healthy & stay active. Holidays are often times of hearty meals followed by sweet desserts, but it is important to keep a balanced diet. Don’t skip out on the colorful fruits and vegetables at Thanksgiving dinner, and try not to be weighed down by the “food coma”—get out and be active.

 

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720NeedyMeds does not have resources specifically for the holidays, but there are programs that offer meal delivery or food pantries for those in need with certain diagnoses. These can be found in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database. We also have an upcoming webinar about Holiday Health with an Autoimmune Condition next week, which you can register for here for more targeted information on maintaining holiday health.

We wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday from all of us at NeedyMeds.

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