Communications from SPW

July 11, 2019

Beach Reads, Pods, and Healthcare Costs

An Arm and a Leg show - a podcast about the cost of healthcareIt’s summer at last. Time to read a good book, and catch up on some podcasts. Here’s one we like – it’s about the cost of healthcare. How much does healthcare cost in the U.S.? An Arm and a Leg, started in November by former WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann, explores that. “Entertaining, empowering, and even useful” – rather than political – it’s about “the way that healthcare runs our lives.”

“The minute I started telling people I was thinking of doing this show,” Dan says in the first episode, “everyone had a story of their own.” They can be pretty riveting. Continue reading “Beach Reads, Pods, and Healthcare Costs”

June 20, 2019

How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask

Women VA staff with posters about why they love their work. One says I'm a veteran helping other veterans.Most female veterans don’t get their health care at the VA. As many as 72%, in fact. Among the many reasons: the VA does not have all the services for women; it doesn’t treat their whole family; it can be uncomfortable to get care in a male-dominated environment; they are tired of VA staff assuming they’re a spouse rather than a service member; it isn’t always conveniently located. The list goes on.

But as the VA’s own data shows, female veterans are more likely to experience military sexual trauma, domestic violence, wage disparity or discrimination, PTSD, substance use disorders, and homelessness than their male counterparts. So having care that is informed by their military status can be crucial.

What can health care systems do to better serve women vets? They can start by identifying them. Continue reading “How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask”

June 13, 2019

Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!

Five coworkers of different races, genders, and ages looking at screen togetherOur new online Continuing Education Center is open, and the first course is live. It’s our exciting new interactive Warrior Stories training.

Online training is not just another thing we’re doing – it’s fundamental. We have always tried to hold a number of trainings every year – to share what we know, and empower others. But we’re a small shop. Maybe so are you. And even in our largest military establishments, or in a major medical center, the number of people in a specific area, and the resources available vs. the work to be done, can be dauntingly not enough. Continue reading “Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!”

June 11, 2019

A Medicaid Reform that Passed Unanimously

Moher holding her baby, sitting on floor in front of couchIt’s hard to believe, but true – the omnibus Medicaid reform bill headed to Gov. Pritzker was passed without a single dissenting vote in either of Illinois’ famously disputatious legislative chambers.

It might be because the need for change was so unambiguously clear: the difficulty people had enrolling and in the program, the vast backlog of applications, the likelihood of losing your coverage in the course of the renewal – or “redetermination” – process, and growing frequency of claims denials. It also represents many months of negotiation and compromise by all parties. Continue reading “A Medicaid Reform that Passed Unanimously”

May 2, 2019

Rate Review – What a Difference!

Logo of Illinois Depart of Insurance with Department of Prior Approval labelOn April 11, the Freedom from Aggressive Insurance Increases Review Act passed the Illinois House on a bipartisan 73-41 vote. The bill ( HB 471 ), known as the FAIIR Act, would give the Department of Insurance the authority to approve or deny unreasonable health insurance rates. This kind of meaningful rate review is practiced in 37 states and has been shown to curb outrageous rate hikes.

In terms of health insurance, Illinois is what is known as a “file and use” state, which means that insurance companies must file their intended premium rates, which then go into effect without having to be approved by the Department of Insurance. In “prior approval” states, the insurance commissioner can approve, reject, or reduce rates, often actively negotiating with the insurer. Continue reading “Rate Review – What a Difference!”

April 11, 2019

Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!

Panels created in the Warrior Stories appA person who has been sexually assaulted often finds the experience difficult to talk about, for many reasons. There are feelings of shame and self-blame associated with the assault. But studies suggest that not talking may be ok as long as the traumatic memories are addressed through nonverbal treatment.

Art therapy is a way to tap into such memories, as they may be better accessed by sensory means. It is often combined with narrative therapy, which allows someone to express their story and see the problems in it as separate from themselves, making them easier to work through.

The Defense Department-sponsored Warrior Stories app was designed for processing combat trauma. Continue reading “Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!”

April 9, 2019

Rules May Complicate Pritzker Plan to Tax MCOs

Cover of Illinois FY 2020 budget proposal, with photo looking up into capitol doneGov. Pritzker’s budget proposal delivered last month calls for new taxes on cigarettes and insurance companies to fund Medicaid. Here is some context on where it came from and the challenges it faces.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services operating budget of $25.1 billion is about $900 million more than for the current year. The vast majority of it is earmarked for Medicaid. The program, which covers 1 in 4 Illinois residents, accounts for close to a third of total state spending. Continue reading “Rules May Complicate Pritzker Plan to Tax MCOs”

March 14, 2019

Bringing MST home, to Congress

Sen. Martha McSally visiting women of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia in 2015Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona captured the attention of Congress, and of the nation, last week when she revealed in a hearing that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. It was a top story from NPR to Fox News.

“Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” she told the witnesses at a hearing of Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, of which she is a member, on March 6th. She did not report the incidents, she testified, because she was ashamed and confused, and in later attempts to talk to Air Force officials about them felt “like the system was raping me all over again.” Continue reading “Bringing MST home, to Congress”

March 13, 2019

Will Benefits Updates Follow Wage Increase?

For every dollar the boss had and didn't work for, one of us worked for a dollar and didn't get it - Women's March signThe long fought-for $15 minimum wage bill was signed into law by Governor Pritzker on February 19. It raises the state’s minimum hourly wage from $8.25 to $9.25 next year, and then phases it in to $15 by 2025.

Although the federal minimum wage is still $7.25, much of the country has moved on. More than 60% of the working age population is estimated to live in areas with a higher-than-federal minimum. Chicago and Cook County have raised theirs, currently at $12 and $11, respectively. California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey will beat us to $15. As of January 2017, 29 states and a couple dozen cities had set their own minimum wage, and a dozen states automatically raise it every year to keep pace with inflation. Continue reading “Will Benefits Updates Follow Wage Increase?”

February 13, 2019

Imagine Medicaid with Informed Consumer Choice

Patient getting in-person assistanceDo you remember when the ACA Marketplace opened in 2013, and the whole thing was so complicated that special roles like “navigators” and in-person counselors, aka IPCs, had to be created to help people enroll? Even though few assisters remain due to significant funding cuts from the federal government, people still need help with healthcare choices, especially in our Medicaid program.

Most people have access to expert help figuring out their healthcare choices. With an employer, you have an HR person or representative to help you sort through your healthcare choices. On the private market, you have brokers and agents. In Medicare, you have Senior Health Insurance Program counselors and brokers. Granted, all those systems have their shortfalls, but the common thread is that there is a person you can reach for help.

Not so for Medicaid recipients – the people likely to need it the most. Continue reading “Imagine Medicaid with Informed Consumer Choice”