August 17, 2009

Double Dose, Part 1: Poll – Pro-Life Majority a Fluke?; Drug Prescriptions, Personal Data for Sale; Individual Insurance Market Full of Loopholes …

A bit of catching up to do …

About That Pro-Life Majority …: Amy Sullivan always thought the Gallup poll released in May that showed, for the first time, a majority of Americans describing themselves as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice,” was a fluke. And she was right:

My skeptical interpretation of the poll didn’t turn out to be terribly popular. The idea that just a few months after the election of a pro-choice president, Americans were racing to embrace the pro-life cause was too tempting a storyline. The poll made headlines everywhere, and we ran an essay on it anyway.

Now along comes a follow-up poll from Gallup and whaddya know, the much ballyhooed pro-life majority seems to have disappeared. The percentages of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are essentially the same (47% for pro-life; 46% for pro-choice). Meanwhile, the positions they hold — a more useful indicator than the labels people choose for themselves — haven’t budged. A solid 78% think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances.

Gallup Poll

Think Prescriptions Are Private? Think Again: After buying fertility drugs at a pharmacy in San Diego, a woman started receiving coupons and samples in the mail — for everything from diapers and baby formula to gifts for an elementary school graduate — for a child she did not have. Milt Freudenheim writes that your prescription information — including your and Social Security number — is “a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients’ knowledge or permission.”

But protections might be strengthened under federal law:

The federal stimulus law enacted in February prohibits in most cases the sale of personal health information, with a few exceptions for research and public health measures like tracking flu epidemics. It also tightens rules for telling patients when hackers or health care workers have stolen their Social Security numbers or medical information, as happened to Britney Spears, Maria Shriver and Farrah Fawcett before she died in June.

“The new rules will plug some gaping holes in our federal health privacy laws,” said Deven McGraw, a health privacy expert at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. “For the first time, pharmacy benefit managers that handle most prescriptions and banks and contractors that process millions of medical claims will be held accountable for complying with federal privacy and security rules.”

The law won’t shut down the medical data mining industry, but there will be more restrictions on using private information without patients’ consent and penalties for civil violations will be increased. Government agencies are still writing new regulations called for in the law.

New Blog: The Global Fund for Women has a new blog: http://globalfundforwomen.wordpress.com. Read about reflections on gender and power; a feminist look at the financial crisis; and tips from Dolores Huerta on keeping activism alive.

Egg-As-Person Crusade Draws Big Money: “In just five short years, the primary movers and shakers in the absolutist anti-abortion/anti-choice movement seeking to promote the ‘personhood’ of zygotes (the single cell that forms after a sperm fertilizes an egg) have amassed nearly $58 million in tax-deductible contributions for their cause,” writes Wendy Norris at RH Reality Check. Norris profiles five organizations that have raised the most money.

Plus: “A Vermont woman whose 6-month-old twin fetuses died after a car crashed into the family van wants them to be legally recognized as children, which is not the case under current state law,” reports the AP.

Why LeRoy Carhart Won’t Stop Doing Abortions: Newsweek profiles Omaha physician LeRoy Carhart, one of three abortion doctors who took turns assisting at the clinic of George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who was murdered in May. Sarah Kliff writes:

Carhart knows there are people who want him dead, too. A few days after Tiller’s murder, Carhart’s daughter received a late-night phone call saying her parents too had been killed. His clinic got suspicious letters, one with white powder. It’s been like this since Carhart started performing abortions in the late 1980s. On the same day Nebraska passed a parental-notification law in 1991, his farm burned down, killing 17 horses, a cat, and a dog (the local fire department was unable to determine the fire’s cause). The next day his clinic received a letter justifying the murder of abortion providers. His clinic’s sidewalks have been smeared with manure. Protesters sometimes stalk him in airports. The threats, the violence, now the assassination of his close friend — all of it has left Carhart undaunted, and the billboard-size sign over his parking garage still reads, in foot-high block letters, ABORTION & CONTRACEPTION CLINIC OF NEBRASKA. “They’re at war with us,” says Carhart of the anti-abortion activist who killed Tiller. “We have to realize this isn’t a difference of opinions. We need to fight back.”

Health Insurance Fail: Sarah Wildman’s daughter cost more than $22,000. Not because of fertility treatments, or adoption. And yes, she and her partner have insurance, which they obtained on the individual market:

Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy— riddled with holes and exceptions — that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The “maternity” coverage we purchased didn’t cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham. And so we spent the first months of her life getting the kind of hospital bills and increasingly aggressive calls from hospital administrators that I once believed were only possible without insurance.

Wildman continues:

Last fall, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report detailing exactly how women who want to bear children are derailed when searching for out-of-pocket health care. Only 14 states require maternity coverage to be included in insurance sold on the individual market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In contrast, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires employers with more than 15 employees to include maternity benefits in their health insurance packages. “We looked at 3,500 individual insurance policies and only 12 percent included comprehensive maternity coverage,” said Lisa Codispoti, Senior Advisor at the National Women’s Law Center. Another 20 percent offered a rider that was astronomically expensive or skimpy or both. One charged $1,100 a month; others required a two-year waiting period.

Continue reading at Double X.

Gene Mutation That Affects Hair Color Linked to Greater Pain Sensitivity: “A growing body of research shows that people with red hair need larger doses of anesthesia and often are resistant to local pain blockers like Novocaine,” reports The New York Times. The story goes on to note that the mutation in the MC1R gene also occurs in people with brown hair, though it is less common. I think I’m one of ‘em.


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