Tag Archives: women’s health

Health reporters can cover safety claims in abortion fight

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

The dramatic filibuster of Texas Senate Bill 5 has refocused the nation’s attention on abortion.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her staunchly planted pink sneakers – along with help from a raucous crowd of spectators – delayed a vote on SB5 until three minutes past midnight on Wednesday, blocking its passage. It may be a short-lived victory for the Democrats, however.

Gov. Rick Perry quickly called another special session, starting today, to take up the bill again.

The bill and supporting documents – including the list of witnesses that testified for and against the legislation (AKA potential sources) – can be found here.

According to a report by the nonprofit Texas Tribune, there are two flashpoints in the proposed law.

The first is that it would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation.  That provision is similar to a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June. The rationale for the legislation, which has been disputed by some doctors, is that fetuses older than 20 weeks can feel pain.

The second is this:

On and after September 1, 2014, the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers.

Those minimum standards, which are set by the Texas Department of State Health Services, can be found here. Continue reading

Boston program specializes in treating homeless #ahcj13

Desiree Robinson

About Desiree Robinson

Desiree Robinson is a producer/host at WBAI-Corona. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-New York Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the New York State Health Foundation.

Larry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program, addresses visiting AHCJ members.

Photo by Desiree RobinsonLarry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program, addresses visiting AHCJ members.

“I’ve been locked up in mental institutions and prison. If it hadn’t been for the team here, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. When I’m feeling depressed, I pick up the phone and I call my psychiatrist and talk.”

These are the heartfelt sentiments of Larry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program (BHCHP). First of its kind in the nation, BHCHP serves 12,000 patients through over 60,000 visits a year in more than 80 locations. For more than 25 years their mission has been to provide or assure access to the highest quality health care for all homeless men, women, transgender and children in the greater Boston area.

As part of one of the field trips offered at Health Journalism 2013, journalists toured the bright and warm facility where health care teams mobilize to serve the most underserved of Boston’s residents. Continue reading

Women’s health and the ACA: Look beyond contraception

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

If you have been listening to the contraception debate in Washington (sort of hard to avoid, isn’t it?), you may be under the impression that preventive health for women equals contraception. Or contraception equals women’s preventive health. (We’re putting aside, for the purpose of this post, the debate about religion, conscience and the role of government).
Health Reform core topic

The Senate has defeated one bid to overturn the administration rule requiring employers to provide an insurance plan with first-dollar coverage of birth control, and it’s not clear what the House will do. But the issue is likely to percolate in Washington, state legislatures and the courts for some time to come.

The health reform law, and the regulations being developed to implement it, has a far more expansive definition of prevention and what it means for women’s health. Here are more details on the new regulations and a tutorial from Kaiser.edu. According to the new women’s preventive health rule, new health plans must cover, without cost-sharing, a lot more than the pill:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.

These requirements will go into effect in August (with another year allowed to finalize how the religious exemptions will work). Grandfathered plans won’t have to follow the new rule, while they maintain their “grandfather” status. Over time, many health plans will go through changes that will mean that they will no longer be “grandfathered.” Then they too will have to follow the new regulations.

Of course, more women will get these benefits, simply because more women will be insured. Approximately one in five women of reproductive age is currently uninsured. Most of them will get coverage, including preventive services, starting in 2014 whether through Medicaid, through subsidized coverage in the exchanges or by buying coverage. Right now, coverage of maternity benefits is spotty on the individual insurance market, but the plans in the health exchanges will cover it.

The law also requires many other preventive services – some free – for men, women and children. They have not gotten much attention in the polarized birth control debate.

The conversation (and press coverage) about the contraceptive rules have included lots of misinformation about abortion. Politicians who misstate policy don’t help, but reporters need to know what the law does and does not do.

The health law does not mandate abortion coverage and this preventive health rule does not change that. In fact, states under health reform have the explicit ability to limit abortion coverage in policies sold in state exchanges and several have already taken action to do precisely that. Plans that do cover abortion in the exchange will have to wall that off in a way to keep it apart from the federal subsidies.

Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to joanne@healthjournalism.org.

A few more stray but relevant facts:

According to the Kaiser.edu materials, about two-thirds of women aged 15 to 44 use contraception – and do so for about 30 years.

Most employer-based insurance plans do cover contraception, though there are often co-pays. Among large employers, more than 80 percent cover contraception.

Federal Medicaid dollars do not cover abortion under the Hyde Amendment (except for rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger) – although some states use their own money to cover abortion in some circumstances. But Medicaid does cover contraception. In fact, Medicaid pays for more than 70 percent of publicly financed family planning services.

And Title X funds family planning clinics (created in 1970 under the Nixon presidency). According to HHS, about 5 million women and men get family planning services through more than 4,500 community-based clinics. Someone with religious objections to providing contraceptives for employees is indirectly paying for Medicaid birth control coverage – and indirectly for the tax subsidies of employer-sponsored insurance – just as we all pay taxes that fund some things we agree with and some we don’t.

AHCJ member wins LA Emmy for PCOS coverage

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

AHCJ member Gerri Shaftel Constant of KTTV-Los Angeles earned her 10th Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for a three-part series on polycystic ovary syndrome, a female hormone disorder. The series profiled two women who suffer from PCOS, as well as a local physician who is a national pioneer in its management. PCOS is linked to obesity, acne, diabetes and facial hair growth, as well as numerous other associated symptoms. The series was titled “Hormone Nightmare,” and won in the “Medical News Story – Multi Report” category.

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Got a new job? Earned a promotion? Won an award or fellowship? Just published a book? AHCJ members are encouraged to share your news by sending it to info@healthjournalism.org. Member news items are posted on Covering Health and in HealthBeat, AHCJ’s newsletter.

Study: Women’s health coverage focuses on control

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Amanda Hinnant, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, analyzed 148 health articles in nine top-selling women’s magazines from a feminist perspective. The resulting article “The Cancer on Your Coffee Table: A Discourse Analysis of the Health Content in Mass-circulated Women’s Magazines,” is summarized here for those without the necessary journal access. Hinnant found that most coverage hewed to what could be called a post-feminist view and focused on the control the individual has over their own health with less regard for outside factors.

From the journalism.missouri.edu summary:

Most articles framed seeking better health as a way of taking control of your life, yet Hinnant suggested this was an illusion of control. “Mood, stress and energy are frequently substituted as symbols for health. Maintaining good health means constantly patrolling the borders for a bad mood, high stress and low energy,” she wrote. “What materializes is the notion that the pursuit of wellness will result in a life in control, when in fact it is a life that is controlled by the tyranny of constant surveillance.”

There were a few political and socially oriented stories (particularly in Glamour), but Hinnant found weight loss to be the most popular topic. Typically, readers were encouraged to lose weight not for aesthetic reasons, but to improve wellness, improve heart health and prevent cancer.