Welcome new citizens to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health Care

Recently I attended a Naturalization Ceremony, my first ever. Forty people from 15 different countries met all the requirements to become citizens of the United States.

The ceremony was solemn but joyful with a local high school choir singing “Music to My Soul” as the whole audience clapped along. The Oath of Allegiance that I’m sharing with you here is sobering . Judge Michael said that we natural born citizens should take it to heart also.

Naturalization Ceremony
front page of the program
Oath of Allegiance
the oath of allegiance

In honor of my new fellow citizens, I’m sharing a post I wrote about the American healthcare system-not perfect, but one we can “support and defend” with pride.

Every year on July 4th we celebrate Independence Day- the day the original 13 American colonies established an independent country.

They subsequently established a government, military, educational system, highway system, public works, and a healthcare system.

We Americans may pride ourselves on not having “socialized” medicine or “national healthcare”, but we do have  a health care system that is a combination of public and private funding and administration. And even private healthcare must comply with a myriad of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

I believe we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world  because of the people who work in healthcare- the people who devote years to education and training and who work tirelessly 365 days a year, 24 hours a day to make and keep us well.  Their commitment, compassion, dedication and competence benefits all of us and deserves our gratitude.

Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty lifting her torch in New York harbor, from my vacation there 

According to recent statistics, the United States government accounts for-

40% of healthcare  spending

$1.3 trillion /year

Covering 100 million individuals

Through 4 federal agencies

Department of Health and Human Services 

Department of Defense

Veterans Administration

Department  of Homeland Security

(JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), June 21, 2016)

Healthcare for active duty military and veterans

During the American Revolution the fledgling government extended health care benefits to the soldiers and veterans of that war; that system evolved into the current military health care system which covers service members and the Veterans’ Administration system for veterans.

a Veterans Administration clinic
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan

Healthcare for civilians

Under President Barack Obama, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 to guarantee basic health insurance to all citizens. Newly elected President Donald Trump vowed to “repeal and replace” this law while some changes have been made, it is still in force.

Two other government healthcare programs- Medicare and Medicaid are over 50 years old.

Medicaid provides insurance coverage for adults and children who are unemployed or low income.

Medicare covers disabled children and adults  and persons 65 years and older.

The numbers are rather staggering.

  • Together these programs cover at least 30% of Americans.
  • Together they comprise 25% of all federal spending.
  • Together they pay 40% of total U.S. health care spending.

An infographic from the Kaiser Family Foundation and JAMA explains this further.

(Cubanski J, Lyons B, Neuman T, et al. Medicaid and Medicare at 50. JAMA. 2015;314(4):328. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.8129)

You may not be eligible for either of these programs now, but chances are eventually you or someone close to you will.

  • Anyone can become disabled from a serious illness or freak accident.
  • You or your spouse may lose your job and your employer sponsored health insurance.
  • Your child may have a disability that will prevent them from working when they grow up.
  • We may all live long enough to qualify for Medicare on the basis of age alone.  Your parents or grandparents are near or already at Medicare age.
ELDERLY COUPLE -189282_1280
Senior adults age 65 and older use Medicare.

It’s important to understand how Medicare works, since it’s not automatic; even if you qualify, you need to sign up to be covered (with a few exceptions). The rules are summarized here. Or consider an  easy to understand book.  

Government healthcare administration –The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Several government agencies regulate, monitor,  promote and/or support both public and private healthcare (most but not all of these are under HHS.) 

Food and Drug Administration- FDA

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- CDC

National Institutes of Health- NIH

Occupational Safety and Health administration-OSHA

Drug Enforcement Agency-DEA

medication capsules
The FDA regulates the development and sale of medications and medical devices and the DEA regulates dangerous and controlled drugs.

Important Federal Healthcare Laws

The Affordable Care Act- ACA

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-HIPPA

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act- EMTALA

Health Information Technology  for Economic and Clinical Health- HITECH

Americans with Disabilities Act-ADA

Family Medical Leave Act-FMLA

Liberty Bell -replica
replica of the Liberty Bell at Disney World, Florida, photographed when I visited with my grandchildren

The origin of United States healthcare

In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of the United States created a nation based on the “self-evident truths”  of  “Life ,Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and to promote “Safety and Happiness” . 

In the Constitution they vowed to “promote the general Welfare” .

I wonder if they envisioned their new government would spend so much time and money providing and regulating health care –

most of which was not available or even imagined at that time? 

Let’s celebrate!

woman holding a sprakler
Let’s celebrate ! This photo and featured image from stock photo site- Lightstock.com (affiliate)

Dr. Aletha 

a woman in a red, white, and blue shirt
Me, a few years ago, showing my patriotic spirit by posing in red, white, and blue
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King, Obama, and Healthcare

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 

The  United States observes the third Monday of January as a federal holiday in honor and memory of the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929)

The Reverend Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.

First African-American President- Barack Obama

In 2008 Democratic candidate Barack Obama ran for President of the United States and won, becoming the 44th President  and the first African-American to win the office.

Former President Obama running with his dog

President Obama kept fit exercising with his dog- photo compliments Pixabay 

 

Candidate Obama  pledged to enact universal health care coverage for the country, a promise President Obama fulfilled with the support of a Democratic Congress. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often shortened to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or nicknamed Obamacare, is a United States federal statute enacted by the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

 

 

First Universal Healthcare Coverage -“Obamacare”

The term “Obamacare” was first used by opponents, then embraced by supporters, and eventually used by President Obama himself. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 amendment, it represents the U.S. healthcare system‘s most significant overhaul and expansion of coverage since  Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. (source Wikipedia) 

 

Is ObamaCare doomed?

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign platform included health care reform, a plan he labeled “repeal and replace” for Obamacare. Thus far, as of January 2018 , President Trump has not convinced Congress to abandon Obamacare, but it will change under the recently passed tax law which has abolished the individual mandate  requiring all persons to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Premiums are predicted to increase significantly, making it more difficult for people to afford coverage.

 

 African-American Health- Progress Made, More Needed

 

The death rate for African Americans dropped 25% from 1999-2015, but they are still more likely to die at a young age than white Americans.

African Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are more likely to live with or die from conditions that typically occur at older ages in whites, including

  • heart disease,
  • stroke, and
  • diabetes.

African Americans ages 35-64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure as whites.

African Americans ages 18 to 49 years are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease as whites.

Social and economic conditions, such as poverty, contribute to the gap in health differences between African Americans and whites.

 

Public health agencies and community organizations should work with other community resources , including

  • education,
  • business,
  • transportation, and
  • housing,

to create social and economic conditions that promote health at early ages.

Consumers can prevent disease and early death by

 

Dr. Ben Carson- “Gifted Hands”

Ben Carson, M.D., renowned neurosurgeon, also ran for President in 2016 , leaving the campaign during the Republican primary.

 

President Trump appointed him to his Cabinet where he serves as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

 

 

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This blog receives support from your use of the affiliate links in this post , other affiliates, and  visiting the advertisers. Profits will also support various health and relief related  organizations.

I invite you to  follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thanks for your time and interest.  Dr. Aletha 

 

Let’s celebrate Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health Care

Every year on July 4th we celebrate Independence Day- the day the original 13 American colonies established an independent country.

They subsequently established a government, military, educational system, highway system, public works, and a healthcare system.

We Americans may pride ourselves on not having “socialized” medicine or “national healthcare”, but we do have  a health care system that is a combination of public and private funding and administration. And even private healthcare must comply with a myriad of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

Celebrate healthcare professionals

I believe we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world  because of the people who work in healthcare- the people who devote years to education and training and who work tirelessly 365 days a year, 24 hours a day to make and keep us well.  Their commitment, compassion, dedication and competence benefits all of us and deserves our gratitude.

Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty lifting her torch in New York harbor

According to recent statistics, the United States government accounts for-

40% of healthcare  spending , totalling $1.3 trillion yearly

United States government healthcare covers 100 million individuals through 4 federal agencies

  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Defense
  • Veterans Administration
  • Department of Homeland Security

(JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), June 21, 2016)

Government sponsored health care programs

The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare

The  United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 to guarantee basic health insurance to all citizens.  During the last presidential campaign, President Trump vowed to “repeal and replace” this law but although it has been modified, it is still active

Healthcare for military service member, veterans ,and their families

During the American Revolution the fledgling government extended health care benefits to the soldiers and veterans of that war; that system evolved into the current military health care system which covers service members and the Veterans’ Administration system for veterans.

a Veterans Administration clinic
a Veterans Administration clinic (photo by Dr. Aletha)
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan

Medicare and Medicaid

Two other government healthcare programs- Medicare and Medicaid are over 50 years old. 

Medicaid provides insurance coverage for adults and children who are unemployed or low income.  

Medicare covers disabled children and adults  and persons 65 years and older.

  • Together these programs cover at least 30% of Americans.
  • Together they comprise 25% of all federal spending.
  • Together they pay 40% of total U.S. health care spending.

An infographic from the Kaiser Family Foundation and JAMA explains this further.

You may not be eligible for either of these programs now, but chances are eventually you or someone close to you will.

  • Anyone can become disabled from a serious illness or freak accident.
  • You or your spouse may lose your job and your employer sponsored health insurance.
  • Your child may have a disability that will prevent them from working when they grow up.
  • We may all live long enough to qualify for Medicare on the basis of age alone.  Your parents or grandparents are near or already at Medicare age.
ELDERLY COUPLE -189282_1280
Senior adults age 65 and older use Medicare.

It’s important to understand how Medicare works, since it’s not automatic; even if you qualify, you need to sign up to be covered (with a few exceptions). The rules are summarized here. Or consider an easy to understand book here. 

Several government agencies regulate, monitor,  promote and/or support both public and private healthcare including-

Food and Drug Administration- FDA

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- CDC

National Institutes of Health- NIH

Occupational Safety and Health administration-OSHA

Drug Enforcement Agency-DEA

medication capsules
The FDA regulates the development and sale of medications and medical devices and the DEA regulates dangerous and controlled drugs.

LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HEALTHCARE

Congress enacted several important laws that administer and regulate both private and public healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act- ACA

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-HIPPA

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act- EMTALA

Health Information Technology  for Economic and Clinical Health- HITECH

Americans with Disabilities Act-ADA

Family Medical Leave Act-FMLA

Liberty Bell -replica
replica of the Liberty Bell at Disney World, Florida

Let Freedom Ring

In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of the United States created a nation based on the “self-evident truths”  of  “Life ,Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and to promote “Safety and Happiness” . 

In the Constitution they vowed to “promote the general Welfare” .

I wonder if they envisioned their new government would spend so much time and money providing and regulating health care –

most of which was not available or even imagined at that time? 

Let’s celebrate!

woman holding a sprakler
Let’s celebrate ! This photo and featured image from stock photo site- Lightstock.com (affiliate)

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

Dr. Aletha 

a woman in a red, white, and blue shirt
Me, a few years ago, showing my patriotic spirit by posing in red, white, and blue

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How your health care may change under the new government

 

The United States voters have elected a new president and a new legislature, both Republican. Analysts expect major changes in policy and law after 8 years of Democratic control.

In a previous post, I outlined then- candidate Donald Trump’s proposals for health care reform, chief of which is repealing the Affordable Care Act (alternately known as the ACA or ObamaCare). Here is a link to that post for your review.

How your vote for president will affect your health care

 

book- TRUMP-THE AMERICA WE DESERVE

THE AMERICA WE DESERVE by Donald Trump 

 

Since his election, President-elect Trump says there are two features of the ACA he would like to see preserved-

  • Prohibition of insurance denial for pre-existing conditions
  • Covering young adults age 18-26 years old on their parents’ insurance plan

He confirmed this in an interview with Leslie Stahl on  November 13, 2016 which you can view here-

60 Minutes Interview : President-elect Donald Trump

 

Since he will need to work with Congress to achieve his proposals,  we should review the Republican party’s platform on health care.

While similar to the President-elect’s plan, it is broader in scope and more specific. Larry Levitt, MPP, reviewed both parties’ platforms in a recent issue of JAMA (September 6, 2016) , basing his review from the parties’ online platforms.

The Republican Platform includes:

  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act
  • Protect insurance discrimination for preexisting conditions as long as continuous coverage is maintained
  • Allow people to buy insurance across state lines
  • Make individually purchased health insurance tax deductible
  • Limit federal spending on Medicaid, allowing the states more leeway in administering the program through block grants
  • Changes to Medicare- providing people under 55 years with a traditional Medicare option or a premium support system of competing plans; raising the age of eligibility for Medicare.

 red, white and blue Republican elephant

In comparison, the Democratic Party proposes

  • Continue building on the ACA to achieve universal health care
  • Provide a “public option” plan and allow people over age 55 years to buy-in to Medicare
  • Make premiums more affordable and reduce out-of-pocket costs to patients
  • Cap out-of-pocket monthly drug costs
  • Permit importation of lower-priced drugs from other countries
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers
  • Expand funding for community health centers

 

red, white and blue Democratic donkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Levitt is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Co-Executive Director of the Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance. He summarizes his review  this way-

“The ACA has increased insurance coverage by 20 million people and is now the status quo in our health care system. Fully repealing it would be very disruptive.

At the same time, the public remains divided on the law, so building on it will also be controversial.”

 

You can read his full review and  analysis here-

The Partisan Divide on Health Care

 

Follow this blog here and on Facebook for more updates on what will happen to our health care under a new administration. Feel free to share your opinions, ideas, and experiences here- thoughtful, considerate, and helpful comments are always welcome.