NMA President’s Corner: Is Health Reform Good For You?
The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the new health care reform legislation, was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama at a pivotal moment in United States History.
But extensive health care reform debate continues throughout the country…
As we continue to watch the news, listen to the radio, hear phrases like “pros and cons,” and read words like “repeal,” “cost” and “value,” it becomes increasingly important to know the facts. It becomes essential to ask the question, “Is health reform good for me and my family?”
It also becomes vital to understand not only that health care reform is good, but to understand just how good, and why.
Shortly after finishing college, Miss Joyce F. got a great job – with what she thought was good health insurance. One week after receiving her yearly ob/gyn checkup, the office notified her that she had an abnormal Pap smear. It was rechecked and found to be okay. A year after that, another Pap smear was performed, and again, it was abnormal.
Additional tests found her to have a pre-cancerous condition. In order to prevent the problem from advancing to cancer of the cervix she was advised to undergo minor in-office minor procedure called a leep conization. The procedure was scheduled…but her insurance company stated that it would not cover that procedure.
Why? Because, according to them, she had a pre-existing condition.
Why is the Affordable Care Act Good? It would prevent health insurance companies from refusing to pay for important treatments by claiming the patient had a pre-existing condition.
Mrs. Sylvia J. had a history of severe cramps, heavy periods and low back pain with her periods. Her gynecologist thought that she might have endometriosis. He advised her to have an outpatient band-aid procedure called a laparoscopy to help diagnosis and treat the problem. Her insurance company approved the procedure and advised the physician and hospital of such. She had the procedure and the diagnosis was endometriosis. She felt wonderful and was able to work without pain.
However, a few months after the procedure, Sylvia, the physician and the hospital were informed by the insurance company that her endometriosis was, in fact, a pre-existing condition. And that the entire cost for the procedure was now her responsibility to pay…the doctor’s bill, the hospital bill and the medication bill. She was horrified…this could bankrupt her!
Why is the Affordable Care Act Good? It stops the kind of health insurance company abuse that patients endure every day.
How Does The Affordable Care Act Give African Americans Greater Health Control?
The above real-life scenarios illustrate very common forms of health insurance mistreatment – which often leaves patients struggling with illness, extra stress…and in many cases, a huge bill. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law to help alleviate the unnecessary burden that hardworking Americans deal with too often.
Here’s a breakdown of exactly what the Affordable Care Act does for you and your family:
The Affordable Care Act Lowers Health Costs for African American Families
• Lifetime limits on insurance coverage are eliminated and insurance companies are banned from dropping people from coverage just because they get sick.
• There will be a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles.
• Starting in 2014, people who cannot afford quality health insurance will receive tax credits.
• Starting this year, Medicare beneficiaries will receive a 50% discount on brand name drugs in the donut hole , and complete closure in 2020.
The Affordable Care Act Gives Consumers Greater Choices
• Insurance company discrimination, such as denying children coverage based on preexisting conditions, has now been eliminated.
• Going forward, insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage.
• More affordable choices are now an option, due in part to the competition created by new state-based health insurance exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act Puts A Stronger Focus on Minority Health
• The National Institute of Minority Health has been created to better reflect minority health issues.
• A primary national goal is now to move towards the elimination of health disparities that African Americans currently face, by investing in data collection and research about ethnic health disparities.
The Affordable Care Act Provides Quality, Affordable Health Care To African Americans
• Preventive care now requires new plans to cover prevention and wellness benefits at no charge…and exempt from deductibles.
• Co-payments for preventative service have been eliminated.
• All Americans are ensured access to free preventive services.
• Community health teams will be provided to improve management of chronic diseases, which will help 50% of African Americans who suffer from them.
• The primary care workforce will be enhanced to ensure that all Americans have access to a primary care doctor.
• New measures have been enacted to help strengthen cultural competency by providing training for health care providers.
Yes, The Affordable Care Act Is Good For You
So we must act now to keep it, protect it and strengthen it…for everyone’s better health. Please enlist your family, friends, church members and organizations to call, send letters or emails to congressional legislators.
By Dr. Leonard Weather, Jr., NMA President
Dr. Leonard Weather is a gynecologist, specializing in infertility, fibroids, pelvic pain and endometriosis. Dr. Weather is a health educator, ordained minister, painter and photographer. He is the publisher of the Dr. Weather Report, a monthly healthcare eNewsletter and he has authored three inspirational poetry books and an infertility handbook.
Dr. Weather is an active gynecological clinical trials researcher and has presented over 125 peer reviewed presentations and papers on laser surgery, the outpatient treatment of infertility, endometriosis, and pelvic pain and fibroids. He developed the surgical procedure Optical Dissection Pelviscopy to assist in the prevention of organ injury during laparoscopy. Dr. Weather is a graduate of Howard University’s College of Pharmacy. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Rush Medical College and trained in gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital. He is a past Adjunct Clinical Professor at Xavier University College of Pharmacy, Past President of the National Medical Association’s (NMA) New Orleans Medical Association and Louisiana Medical Association.
Dr. Weather is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Past Grand President of Chi Delta Mu Medical Fraternity, and the former Treasurer of Black Congress on Health, Law and Economics (BCHLE). He is also a member of numerous Louisiana Commissions appointed by the Governor, Past Chair of Region V, NMA, Inc., and a member of the National Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. He was the Principal Investigator for the National Medical Association’s Katrina Disaster Practice Restoration Grant.
Currently, he is the President of Northern Louisiana Medical Association and the New Orleans Health Alliance (NOHA), the latter organization founded in 1999 consists of Black Health Professionals, Black Nurses, Inc., New Orleans Medical Association, New Orleans Dental Association, Podiatric Association, New Orleans Optometrists, Pharmacists and Physical Therapists, along with Chi Delta Mu Medical Fraternity. He is also a Member of the Board of Scientific Advisors to the Endometriosis Association and the Chair of the Health Policy Committee for the National Medical Association’s Board of Trustees. In September 2009, Dr. Weather was appointed Co-Chair of the Commission to End Health Care Disparities. The Commission is a joint effort between the NMA and AMA to end health disparities.
Dr. Weather is married to Dr. Cynthia Montgomery, who is also an Ob/Gyn. They reside in Shreveport, Louisiana with their two children.
For more information about Health Care Reform & African Americans, please visit the websites listed below:
The State Of Health For Black Men
(BlackDoctor.org) — Needless to say, it’s extremely important to know the state of health for African American men. If we were to look at a number of responses to the question “What is the current state of your health?” many would, unfortunately, give negative response.
This is due, in part, to the contemporary African American man’s life today.
Health is based on a number of factors, such as diet, genetics, lifestyle, and the environment. Most of the health concerns of African American people today are not genetic. It should be obvious, then, just where improvements need to take place for better health.
Paul W. is a 37-year-old African American accountant who was a star football player in high school and college — with a near perfect physique at that time.
Some years later…Paul works long hours, doesn’t eat breakfast, drinks at least three soft drinks per day, loves sweets and indulges in ice cream at bedtime. He smokes a pack of cigarettes per day, drinks occasionally, and doesn’t exercise. Both he and his wife eat their share of fast foods at home and at work – just about only vegetables he eats are the ones on his hamburgers, and fruits are rarely ever eaten.
Paul lost that near perfect physique years ago and is now overweight. He hasn’t seen a doctor in ten-years, and he lives down the street from an oil refinery.
Yes, Paul’s story is extremely disturbing – he’s doing too many of the wrong things, including his lack of exercise, minimal fruits and vegetables, excessive sweets, smoking and no recent doctor visit. His weight problem is due to his diet and lifestyle, and you probably know by now that being overweight or obese is associated with diabetes, heart disease, HBP, stroke, cancer and premature death. The fact that he lives near an oil refinery means he’s constantly being exposed to toxins commonly associated with various cancers.
If he doesn’t change his habits, Paul’s story will not have a happy ending.
Quick Health Facts
In 2005 African American (AA) men were 2.4 times as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men (WM). They also had a lower 5-year cancer survival rate for lung and pancreatic cancer.
AA men are twice as likely to develop diabetes as compared to WM.
AA men were 30% more likely to die from heart disease as compared to WM.
AA men had more than 7 times the AIDS rate and were 9 times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS as WM.
AA men are 60% more likely to die from a stroke than WM
Steps To Better Health
• Be physically-active, exercise daily and make healthy food choices
• Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily 4
• Get a healthy weight and stay there
• Be tobacco-free
• If you drink alcohol have no more than two drinks per day
• Have your blood pressure checked at least yearly
• Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening, PSA test and digital rectal examination (DRE).
• Talk to your doctor about HIV screening
• Know what toxins are in your community there’s a connection with cancer and other diseases from paper mills, refineries and factories. 7
Simply put, the state of health for Black men is complex. There are some in great health, there are some with good health…but there too many with inadequate health. It’s imperative that all Black men challenge themselves to attain a higher level of health.
What’s your story?
By Dr. Leonard Weather, Jr., NMA President
Dr. Leonard Weather is currently the president of the NMA, as well as a gynecologist, specializing in infertility, fibroids, pelvic pain and endometriosis. Dr. Weather is a health educator, ordained minister, painter and photographer. He is the publisher of the Dr. Weather Report, a monthly healthcare eNewsletter and he has authored three inspirational poetry books and an infertility handbook.
For More Information About Health & Black Men
1. The Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has a web site for men on staying healthy. Go to http://www.ahrq.gov/healthymen/.
2. The 100 Black Men of America, Inc. acts to improve the quality of life within our communities and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans. Their health and wellness programs may be accessed at http://www.100blackmen.org.
3. Centers for Disease Control- Men’s Health, contains quality information on men’s health go to http://www.cdc.gov/men/
4. Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have partnered to address diet-related diseases affecting African-American Men, 9 A Day today, go to www.9aday.cancer.gov.
5. Nutrition for Everyone: Nutrition Basics from
DHHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers basic nutrition concepts to help you sort through nutrition research and dietary advice. The information can be obtained at http://www.nutrition.gov/.
6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a wealth of information about healthy eating. Information may be obtained at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/portion_size.html.
7. The agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) map allows one to find out the toxic waste sites in your community go to http://gis.cdc.gov/ncehatsdrwebmaps/main2.aspx.