LegNet August 2008
Women's Health: From Moms to Medicare
LegNet August 28, 2008
Women’s Health: From Moms to Medicare
HR 5877: THE SHINGLES PREVENTION ACT
In May 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever vaccine for adult shingles. More than 47 million Americans are at risk of developing shingles, and the new vaccine has been proven to prevent roughly half of all outbreaks. However, the price of the vaccine is more than $150, making it out of reach for many older Americans who live on fixed incomes and are at greatest risk of developing the disease.
There is a bill in the U.S House of Representatives that would make the vaccine much more affordable for the average American: H.R. 5877, The Shingles Prevention Act. The bill is sponsored by Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and currently has 35 co-sponsors. Call your Congressional Representative and ask that they co-sponsor H.R. 5877. To locate the number of your Representative please visit www.House.gov or call the House of Representatives switchboard at 202/224-3121 to be connected directly to their office.
According to Congresswoman Hirono’s office, the Shingles Prevention Act will save almost half a billion dollars in treatment costs making this an extraordinarily cost effective piece of legislation.
Facts About Shingles
- Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
- If you had chickenpox as a child, you are at risk for Shingles.
- One million cases of shingles are diagnosed in the U.S. every year.
- Fifty percent of all adults who reach age 85 will develop shingles.
- Shingles is usually found in people age 60 and older.
- Half of older adults admit to knowing very little about the disease.
Signs/Symptoms/Complications of Shingles
- Itching, tingling, or burning of the skin
- Rash of fluid filled blisters--usually on one side of the body or face
- Long term nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia or PHN after the rash heals
- Hearing and vision loss
- Paralysis on one side of the face
- Muscle weakness
In partnership with the American Pain Foundation, GFWC provides a free informational kit about Shingles to members who are interested in learning more or providing additional education and materials to their clubs. To receive your free kit please contact GFWC Program Assistant Kari O’Donnel by e-mail or call 202-347-3168 ext 134.
WOMEN, AGING & HEALTH CARE
As women age, their insurance needs increase, and the likelihood of coverage decreases. At retirement women tend to have lower Social Security and pension benefits than men primarily because they had lower average earnings during their work years or left the workforce for periods of time to raise children or care for aging family members. Uninsured or underinsured women lack adequate access to care and have poorer health outcomes than insured women. They are more likely to postpone care, avoid or delay filling prescriptions, and delay or go without important preventive care.
Medicare is a federal government program that provides health insurance to people over 65, and includes three different parts:
- Part A, hospital insurance, covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facilities and some home health care.
- Part B, medical insurance, covers doctor visits but not routine exams, medically necessary supplies and equipment, physical and occupational therapy, outpatient mental health services and other outpatient hospital services.
- Part D, prescription drugs, is an optional program, and you must enroll in Part D in order to receive coverage for prescription drugs.
As a way for those with Medicare to cover prescription drug costs, many consumers look towards private supplemental insurance. However, access to these beneficial plans is decreasing, on top of a decline in the scope of existing drug coverage. Currently, six percent of women have individually-purchased insurance coverage, but often encounter high deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs.
Employee-sponsored plans or retiree health plans assist fewer than 40 percent of women on Medicare and have steadily been eroding due to increasing employer health costs.
You can compare private insurance plans for women of all ages online, where you can enter basic demographic information and receive a quote from multiple health insurance companies.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign season, parties’ candidates have spoken extensively about their plans to reform healthcare for all Americans and have dedicated portions of their websites to explain these plans. As you are examining the candidates, their records, and stances on the issues in preparation for the November election, please visit their respective websites:
Sen. John McCain's position on healthcare issues including medicare
Sen. Barack Obama's positions on healthcare issues and medicare
Postpartum depression affects as many as 10 percent of all new mothers, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the symptoms, including irritability, loss of appetite and overwhelming fatigue, may last for many months after giving birth. It is an illness experienced by clubwoman Allison Yezek of the GFWC Junior Woman’s Club of Charlotte, N.C., after the birth of her first child. Allison talks about her experience with postpartum depression and her passion for helping other women who suffer from it on her My Volunteer Year blog.
Allison spent many months working on a bill before the U.S. Congress, H.R. 20, the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act. Melanie Blocker-Stokes was an Illinois woman who committed suicide after suffering from postpartum depression. This bill would have increased research for postpartum depression and offered grants for essential medical care to those who suffer from the illness and their families. Melanie’s family believes she did not receive the appropriate care and attention for this volatile and often understood disease and would have been greatly helped by many of its key provisions. The bill had the potential to save countless lives like Melanie’s and was part of a package of bills known as the Advancing America’s Priorities Act, which did not pass in the Senate.
At the 2008 GFWC Annual International Convention in Chicago, Resolution 013-440 Reproductive Health Care was amended to support research and legislation related to postpartum depression. Beginning in January 2009, the GFWC Public Policy Department will begin advocating on this issue on behalf of clubwomen. Look for updates and calls to action on this very serious topic and learn more about how you can support Allison Yezek on her blog.