Stay Healthy in Summer Weather

We are now in June and summer is about to sweep across much of the United States. Over the next few months, it will be important to protect ourselves from the health risks posed by the sun and heat. Regardless of skin color, exposure to the sun carries many dangers to one’s skin—from freckles and wrinkles often associated with aging, to sunburns, benign tumors or cancerous skin lesions. Prolonged heat exposure can also have many negative impacts on one’s health ranging from a rash, exhaustion, fainting, or even death.

sunglasseslotionAlthough everyone should take precautions to protect their skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages those with pale skin; blond, red, or light brown hair; or who has a personal or family history of skin cancer to be especially careful while in the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage one’s skin in as little as 15 minutes, and the best tool in combatting that skin damage is sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying SPF 30 (at least) liberally 15 minutes before going outside, and to reapply at least every two hours to remain protected.

To further protect your skin where sunscreen is ineffective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible, and at least a t-shirt when the heat makes long clothing uncomfortable. Hats and sunglasses also protect vulnerable areas from the sun. Staying in the shade or avoiding the outdoors altogether during the midday hours can also lower one’s risk of skin damage from the sun.

There is an average of 618 heat-related deaths per year in the U.S. The CDC has many recommendations including staying in air-conditioned or climate-controlled areas, taking cool showers or baths, drinking more water than usual to stay hydrated, avoiding alcohol or sugary drinks, and to be aware of local weather reports.

It is very important to know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Muscle cramping is often the first sign, and could lead to heavy sweating, weakness, clammy skin, fast weak pulse, nausea, or fainting—the signs of heat exhaustion. Cramps can also lead to heat stroke, a medical emergency; if body temperature rises above 103°F with rapid and strong pulse or unconsciousness, call 911 immediately. In times of extreme heat, people are encouraged to check on friends and neighbors who are at higher risk to the heat such as people aged 65 and older, infants and children, people with chronic medical conditions, outdoor workers, and people with low income.

It is important to know the dangers of sun and heat exposure, and that there are resources available for those in need. NeedyMeds has information on national Diagnosis-Based Assistance programs (DBAs) offering testing for those at risk for skin cancer as well as financial assistance for those already diagnosed. We hope everyone enjoys the beautiful weather this summer and stays safe and healthy.

Amended AHCA Passes House Vote, Fails CBO Score

In a previous blog post, we explored the proposed Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) repeal/new healthcare law called the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Congress decided the bill would not be voted on shortly thereafter due to lack of support, but it has since been modified and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The passing of the House bill was celebrated by the Trump administration before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could analyze how the bill would affect the federal deficit and the healthcare costs for Americans. Last week the CBO released their report on the amended AHCA.

 

According to supporters of the bill, the AHCA’s aim is to lower premiums and the deficit. The CBO report finds that the deficit will decrease by $119 billion by 2026 (as opposed to the $337 billion decrease from the previous version of the AHCA rejected in March) but would increase the number of uninsured people by 23 million in the same time period. It also found that insurance premiums would rise an average of 25% by 2019 before normalizing by 2020. Depending on what part of the country and the number of changes implemented in different states, premiums would be anywhere from 4% to 20% lower by 2026. The CBO acknowledges that the highest reduction in premiums would go to the healthiest and youngest Americans, while older people with pre-existing conditions could see a rise in premiums.

There is a high degree of uncertainty based on states being able to obtain waivers exempting them from ACA’s Essential Health Benefits—minimum standards of care, including mental health and other services that Obamacare required insurance plans to cover. Another waiver would allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more. Based on CBO projections, states that receive both waivers would have prohibitively high insurance premiums for less healthy people, including those with pre-existing conditions. Waiving essential health benefits would lead to an increase in individuals’ out-of-pocket costs by thousands of dollars despite eventually lower insurance premiums. The CBO estimates one-sixth of Americans live in states that will seek both waivers, a half won’t be affected by either waivers, and the remainder of states will implement “moderate” changes. The new healthcare bill also aims to remove the ACA’s ban on annual and lifetime limits on covered benefits, further affecting out-of-pocket costs especially for Americans with pre-existing conditions. The bill is currently set to be debated in the U.S. Senate.

 

There will be further developments in the American Health Care Act and any repeal or changes to the Affordable Care Act, and we at NeedyMeds will try to keep up-to-date on the details. 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.

 

We at 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 a 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.

National Women’s Health Week

This past Mother’s Day launched the 18th annual National Women’s Health Week. Led by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the goal is to empower women to make their health a priority and raise awareness of the steps one can take to improve their health.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends many common measures, such as proper health screenings, staying physically active, eating healthy, and promoting other healthy behaviors. Healthy behaviors include getting enough sleep, being smoke-free, washing your hands, not texting while driving, or wearing a seatbelt, a bicycle helmet, or sunscreen when appropriate. Furthermore, the National Women’s Health Week website has suggestions for women in their 20s to their 90s.

 

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)/new healthcare law awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate after passing through the House of Representatives removes a regulation forbidding insurance companies from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions. Prior to the ACA, pre-existing conditions included many routine women’s health issues including pregnancy and Cesarean sections. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) also removes the ACA’s essential health benefits guidelines, many of which were in place to promote and ensure women’s health.

There have been reports that being a victim of sexual assault or domestic abuse would qualify as a pre-existing condition under the AHCA. While this is not specifically the case, follow-up treatments for assault such as STI-prevention or injuries sustained through abuse can lead to higher insurance costs or denial of healthcare coverage.

 

There are resources for women in need. In a previous blog post, we detailed the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Information for the local offerings from the program can be found in the NeedyMeds State Sponsored Programs section. There are other government programs for women’s health to be found on our site, including WISEWOMAN, a program that provides low-income, uninsured/under-insured women with blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings.

NeedyMeds has a database of over 15,000 free, low cost, or sliding scale clinics, over 4000 of which offer women’s health services. Search your zip code for clinics in your area, and find Women’s Health in Services under the Details heading to find free or low-cost medical attention. Assistance for women’s health can also be found in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database by searching for conditions that affect the women in our lives. For more resources, check our website at Needymeds.org or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Mental Health Month

May has been observed as Mental Health Month since 1949. One in five Americans are affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime—as many as 43.8 million—and everyone is impacted through family or loved ones. A main objective of mental health awareness is to fight the stigma surrounding those living with sometimes serious conditions through education and support and to improve the chance of recovery for those in need.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

Everyone has stress and difficult emotions on occasion, and this is completely normal. Mental illness, however, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect relationships or job performance, and is caused by any number of complex interactions within the human brain. Mental illness can range from anxiety or mood disorders like depression, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, eating disorders, or addictive behaviors.

Mental illness is prevalent in homeless populations, with approximately 26% of adults staying in shelters living with serious mental health conditions and an estimated 46% with co-occurring severe mental illness and/or chronic substance abuse. One in five state prisoners have a recent history of mental illness. Mental health is a major concern for LGBT individuals often dealing with physical or emotional abuse, body dysmorphia, or feeling unsafe at school or work. Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder are the third most common cause of hospitalizations in the U.S. across ages 18-44. Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

 

The new healthcare law awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate after passing through the House of Representatives removes a regulation forbidding insurance companies from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions. The passage of the amended American Health Care Act (AHCA) could leave Americans with mental disorders (including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder) without insurance or access to affordable care.

 

In a previous blog post, we outlined the resources available for major depression, including our Diagnosis Information Pages. There are twelve different conditions under the Mental Health heading including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. We have information for over 3000 free, low-cost, or sliding-scale clinics throughout the country that offer counseling or mental health services. Search your zip code for clinics that may offer Counseling/Mental Health Services near you, or call our toll-free helpline for information.

We encourage everyone to educate themselves, strive to understand the difficulties people around us live with, and to replace stigma with hope and support. If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health condition, it is important to know that no one is alone in their struggle. Call for assistance, whether help is needed immediately or long-term.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

NeedyMeds Toll-Free Helpline: 1-800-503-6897

Changes to the ACA in the New Administration

In a previous blog post, we explored the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Since then, the bill has been indefinitely tabled after it could not secure the required number of votes to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

Prior to the new full law being proposed and pulled, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced changes to the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The new changes include some long-considered ideas to improve the law, including strengthening rules for those signing up for insurance outside the open-enrollment period to ensure that people are not waiting until they are sick before getting coverage.  They’ve also proposed to be more flexible for insurers in the exchanges Bronze level plans to reduce cost burdens as was proposed under Obama.

 

Other ideas put forward have deviated into some pretty striking departures from previous proposals. The new rules suggest cutting the open enrollment period in half, only running from November 1 to December 15; previously, open enrollment would run until the end of the following January. The new rules also lowers the requirements for the Silver and Gold plan levels, minimizing standards of coverage. The rule notes that the move will increase out-of-pocket costs for Americans in the short-term, but claims that it should lower premiums to offset the increase in the long-term. The new rules would allow insurers to refuse coverage until past-due premiums have been paid. They have also granted insurers more time to submit plans to the federal and state governments to plan their exchange offerings for 2018.

The nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analyzed the proposals and found that lowering standards would reduce the value of tax credits and raise the out-of-pocket costs. The CBPP illustrated a table to show how a family of four with an income of $65,000 with Silver plans could be affected, either by deductibles going up $550 per person or premiums rising $327 per year:

We at 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 a 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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