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The Consumer Health Week in Review: Women’s Health

This one is for the ladies: Women’s Healthcare Provisions take effect


This week on Wednesday, a new phase of the Affordable Care Act took effect, focused on women’s preventative healthcare services. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius was joined by Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in announcing the new Women’s Preventative Health Care Amendment. Thanks to the new law, insurers must now cover, and require no co-pays or out of pocket costs, for eight preventive care services: 
•    Well-woman visits
•    Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases
•    Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
•    FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
•    Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
•    HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older
•    Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women
•    HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women
This is a huge step forward in ensuring that women have access to diagnostics as well as preventive care measures. According to the HHS report, approximately 47 million women are in health plans that will have to adopt these new rules.

A Center for Disease Control (CDC) report out this week basically shows that consumption of tobacco is about the same, even though cigarette sales have decreased. Why? The CDC reports that smokers are opting instead for cigarette-like cigars or purchasing loose tobacco labeled for pipe smoking, instead of cigarettes—getting around the high tax levied on cigarettes. As the New York Times reported, the amount of loose pipe tobacco sold in 2011 was enough to make 17.5 billion cigarettes, a sixfold increase over the amount sold in 2008. And these products are being marketed to younger smokers, as a cheaper alternative. In a recent New York Times article, Michael Tynan, a public health analyst with the CDC. and one of the authors of the report, says, ““The lower prices of these alternative products are particularly appealing to young people, for whom cost is a significant deterrent to smoking.” Cigars and loose tobacco for pipes are not regulated in the same way cigarettes are either.  So, small cigars are now large cigars (manufacturers added more tobacco to small cigars to get them reclassified), so they are taxed at a lower rate and can add flavoring. In the end, you’re still just smoking tobacco, right? Tynan notes, “These products are labeled differently, but in all ways they’re smoked and used as cigarettes.” The Government Accountability Office has recommended changing the federal tobacco excise taxes to eliminate the differential taxation.

Quiet down, please. I’m trying to sleep

This story, also in the New York Times, really spoke to me. My 98 and a half year old aunt just returned home from the hospital and rehab. Her biggest complaint—“I can’t sleep there.” Dr. Pauline Chen’s piece, “The Clatter of the Hospital Room,” confirms that my Aunt Thelma is not alone. The combination of noise from monitors and other devices, as well as the constant checking of blood pressure and heart rate—often in the middle of a nap or the night—make it difficult to sleep soundly. A University of Chicago study in the Archives of Internal Medicine states that sounds in hospital rooms are considerably higher than levels recommended by the World Health Organization. With lost sleep comes other side effects, like increased blood pressure.
What’s being done?  Many manufacturers are now offering wireless devices, or setting alarms to go off near the doctor or nurse, rather than the bedside. But the bigger deterrent to sleep may actually be how care is delivered in hospitals. Could you check the patient’s vitals at 8 a.m., instead of 4 a.m.? Working with a non-profit organization called Planetree, some hospitals are adopting “quiet” campaigns with names like SHHH (Silent Hospitals Help Healing).

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