The hardest thing to see is usually what’s missing.
With that in mind, take a moment to stop and consider what you probably didn’t see on the Sunday morning political talk shows yesterday.
The answer is women.
In fact, analysis by Media Matters shows that women represent a mere 25% of all guests on Sunday morning television news shows. When it comes to solo interview guests, women comprise only 15% of the total.
If the guest list for these programs is understood as an indication of whom ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC recognize as power players, women aren’t faring too well. And, we certainly don’t seem to be rising in their esteem—women’s representation has increased a less than significant percentage point since 2008.
That’s why OWL was proud to join 23 other women’s organizations in asking the presidents or CEO’s of the major networks to immediately address the disparity in representation on political talk shows.
The letter noted:
There are qualified women to speak on issues affecting all Americans, including national security, economic growth, climate change, education and many others. But when it comes to reproductive health, equal pay, and other subjects disproportionately affecting women, it becomes increasingly imperative that Sunday political talk shows reflect our democracy. This is particularly important since these shows frequently set the tone for how these topics are covered later in the week.
Starting next Sunday, start keeping score. And don’t be afraid to let the networks know you’re watching.
To read the letter in its entirety, please click here
To learn more about the underrepresentation of women on television news interview programs, please click here.
Carol Gardner, the creator of Zelda Wisdom, was elected to the OWL Board of Directors at its January 27 meeting.
The author of 13 books, Gardner has a life story that exemplifies both the OWL spirit and the resilience of women over 40. Gardner was 52, recently divorced, depressed, and in debt when the then four-month-old Zelda, an English bulldog, came into her life. As Gardner tells it, her divorce attorney had advised her to either get a therapist or get a dog. Choosing the latter made a world of difference in her life. It wasn’t long before Gardner leveraged her own background in advertising and Zelda’s good looks to build a hugely successful greeting card business.
Gardner, who is adamant about “giving back” currently serves on the boards of several other organizations, including World Affairs Council, the Portland Symphony, Portland Art Museum, Emanuel Hospital, and the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center (OHSU).
OWL Board President, Margaret Huyck welcomed Gardner to the board saying, “Carol joins us at an exciting point in OWL’s history. We’re delighted to have her on our team.”
Washington, DC is not characterized by bipartisanship these days, but there’s been someone in town who has everyone united in their enthusiasm—and she has a special significance for those of us at OWL’s national headquarters.
The snowy owl was first spotted in DC on Wednesday night, just a few blocks from OWL’s office on K Street. Her unexpected appearance set Twitter abuzz, and had people from both sides of the political aisle, er, flocking to have a look.
When the owl reappeared outside the offices of the Washington Post yesterday, OWL’s Executive Director, Bobbie Brinegar was on the scene with camera in hand almost immediately. As Brinegar noted in an interview with Washington City Paper, OWL has been considering a new mascot, and this head turner, whom she has named “Shulie”, seems just about perfect for the role.
Click here to read the Washington City Paper article.
We at OWL have been especially excited about the attention which Maria Shriver and the Shriver Report have focused upon the status of American women with this week’s release of A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink.
The discussion which Ms. Shriver has initiated continued today with a daylong conference at the Newseum, in Washington, DC.
Sponsored by The Atlantic, the event gathered key leaders together to ask, “Why are millions of working women, who are now the core of the American economy and the core of the American family, more economically vulnerable than ever before, and what can we as a nation do about it?”
OWL’s executive director, Bobbie Brinegar was among the attendees and thanked Ms. Shriver for her remarkable efforts.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar with Maria Shriver
Bobbie Brinegar with Riverdale, Georgia mayor, Evelyn Wynn-Dixon
One in three American women live in, or on the brink of, poverty.
The average American woman earns 77 cents for each dollar the average American man makes.
Millions of American women are “one missed paycheck, one sick child, one broken down car away from losing it all.”
These are just some of the disturbing and disturbingly persistent facts about the status of American women shared in Maria Shriver’s The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, released this week in partnership with the Center for American Progress. The 400-page, comprehensive report also includes essays from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, LeBron James, Jada Pinkett Smith, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg.
It’s been 50 years since Shriver’s father, the late Sargent Shriver, led President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Speaking with David Gregory this Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Maria Shriver lauded the successes of many of the programs her father helped to establish, including Head Start, Vista, Job Corps, and legal services for the poor. She also provided a frank look at the new face of poverty in America, noting that “Two thirds of all minimum wage workers are women and that 70% of those women don’t have one sick day.”
According to Shriver, addressing the issue of women in poverty isn’t just about women; it’s about a shift in thinking that ultimately elevates our nation as a whole. “What’s good for women, at the center of the economy, is also good for men. Men need flexible hours, men need sick days because they are going to be caring for parents as well. Men need all of these things that women need. These are smart family policies that we are talking about…What we’re saying is that government and businesses have not kept up; we need to modernize our relationships to women,” Shriver stated.
One thing that we at OWL particularly appreciate about Shriver’s message is its recognition that solving the critical issue of women in poverty will require a multi-dimensional, bipartisan approach. Shriver referenced the efforts of non-profits and programs at the state level. Stating that she had given a copy of the report to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Shriver said, “I think it’s great that Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan and others are engaged in this debate right now. That’s what we want to do with this report …to ignite a conversation about low income people.”
As Shriver observed, addressing poverty is “not the purview of just Democrats. It’s not the purview of just female politicians and elected leaders; men have a lot to say about this as well… Women are at the center of our country. When women do well, men do well and the nation does well.”
Learn more about the Shriver Report and how to download your copy of A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink by clicking here.
Watch Maria Shriver’s conversation with David Gregory on Meet the Press by clicking here.
Be inspired to join the conversation by clicking here to watch the Shriver Report’s promotional YouTube video.
By Janna Starr
Secretary, OWL National, and President, The Arc Oregon
The great Dr. Gunnar Dybwad, came to the United States in the 1930’s as a refugee from the Hitler regime in Germany. He went on to become a professor at Brandeis University and a leader in the U.S. disability rights movement. Dybwad spent more than half a century working to improve life for people with disabilities and traced the history of the disability rights movement in his 1999 book, Responding to the Challenge. In his later years, he traveled extensively, extolling the movement’s magnificent accomplishments. Dybwad systematically and scientifically observed that history shows a steady upward curve in the quality of life for people who experience disability. He had the charts and graphs to prove it, and he challenged all of us to accept and celebrate our successes. That positive attitude, the notion of taking the good with the good, somehow made the overall battle easier.
So, as we end 2013 and move into 2014 let’s take a lesson from the life of this great scholar and look at the successes – and the potential—of our voice, the voice of midlife and older women, as we work for equity and quality of life for midlife and older women everywhere.
First, let’s just get it out of the way and stipulate right up front that things could be a lot better. Nearly eight in ten seniors are currently living with at least one chronic health condition. About 20 percent have diabetes, and more than 70 percent have heart disease. No one wants to live alone in an inferior long-term care facility. The intricacies of insurance and Medicare remain a mystery for too many. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has seen technological and policy challenges. Unemployment in our demographic remains high; and every government program we have is always at political risk.
But as much as we might like to dwell on the bad, if we look a little closer, we cannot deny that the history of the world proves, unequivocally, the value and significance of older citizens. There is archeological evidence, for example, of prehistoric senior care, when Egyptian Pharaohs were buried with walking sticks (canes), and Ancient Etruscans created dentures out of human and animal teeth. Arabic texts written in 1025 AD spoke of the importance of elders, and seniors were legally exempt from economic hardships in Iceland in the 13th Century. In the 1700’s, France held festivals to honor elders; and even the seeds of the modern U.S. long-term care system were planted back in the mid-1800′s, when fraternal, trade and religious groups in Europe and the U.S. began to open non-profit homes for seniors as alternatives to state-run institutions. In 1909, the term “geriatrics” was coined in Austria, and in 1933, the first lightweight, collapsible wheelchair was invented in the U.S. The U.S. Congress passed Social Security 1935 and Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The first hospice opened in 1974; and today, we have the Administration on Aging, multiple local, state, and national services and powerful and vital voices both inside and outside of government.
Now we are faced with 2014, and we can be glad about many things. Congress has come together to pass a budget; the stock market is up; and maybe it’s just the season, but it seems there is just a bit more talk, everywhere we turn, about reconciliation and, “getting together.” We know we will be challenged in the New Year, and after, by what is still missing; but we can take a page from history and know that if we all work together, we will make sure midlife and older women are safe and secure as we age. So let’s face the New Year with the courage to accept our successes – to celebrate the reality beyond the headlines. Let’s just take the good with the good and move on together to make it all work.
OWL’s Hyde Park Illinois Chapter will start off the New Year with a program that examines a resolution that many of us have been putting off: to have “the conversation”—about our wishes for end of life—with family and friends, as well as our primary care physician.
It’s a subject that has been getting a great deal of attention lately. In a recent Chicago Tribune column, journalist Barbara Brotman wrote about how she was planning to have “the conversation” with her spouse and young adult children over the holidays. An AARP Bulletin included a blurb on “death and dining,” that provided a link to The Conversation Project’s Death Over Dinner website (Death over Dinner.org).
The Conversation Project was founded by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Ellen Goodman. Describing the program in a recent interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Ms. Goodman explained that the project stemmed from her own experience providing end of life care for her mother. She realized that there were critical issues and decisions that she and her mother had never addressed in conversation. She started The Conversation Project to encourage other families to discuss these issues before it is too late. In the NPR interview, Goodman stated, “we’ve learned that when people do have these conversations with the people they love, they experience less depression, less sorrow, less guilt afterwards. So, The Conversation Project is not only for people to express their wishes, but it’s for their survivors. It’s for their families.”
Talking is key and the Conversation Project’s website (www.theconversationproject.org) offers suggestions for planning a dinner at which to begin this important discussion. It also provides links to relevant articles and videos.
For a link to The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit, please click here.
To listen to the NPR interview with Ellen Goodman, please click here.
In a recent blog post for The Bipartisan Policy Center, BPC’s Matthew Weil noted that illness and disability may be keeping a disproportionate number of America’s seniors from the polls. According to Weil, 14% of non-voters recently surveyed cited illness and disability as preventing their participation in the 2012 presidential election. This percentage rose to 42% among non-voting respondents over the age of 65.
Weil goes on to observe that, “we also learn from the data that simply having any disability makes it less likely an American will be registered to vote in the first place compared to those not having a disability (69.2% to 71.5%) and less likely that they will participate (56.8% to 62.5%). ...States and local jurisdictions have many ways to assist voters with disabilities, from accessible voting machines and polling places, curbside voting options, web-interfaces for completing absentee ballots, among others. Now that policymakers know who isn’t voting but can be assisted, they must incorporate available, workable solutions into the process to reduce the number of Americans who report that disability and illness keeps them away from the polls in 2014.”
OWL-National Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was one of a select group of leaders in aging advocacy invited to meet with Democratic Senators on Capitol Hill this week. At a meeting convened by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee on Wednesday, November 6, Brinegar continued to advocate for a bipartisan approach to addressing the concerns of mid-life and older women.
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Committee Chairman, stated that their “discussion showcased the critical importance of the work we do to provide services for our nation’s seniors,” and expressed confidence that, “there are responsible ways to cut the budget without hurting our seniors.”
In written remarks submitted to the committee, Brinegar, commented upon the results of a recent NBC News/Esquire Magazine poll that found the majority of the electorate occupy what was characterized as “a new American center…. bound by a surprising set of shared ideas.”
Brinegar remarked that she believed that the poll pointed to a critical juncture in American politics. She observed that, “we are increasingly a nation of shared purpose. In fact, it is apparent that the most destructive division is not within the American people: it is between the people and those whom they entrusted with the responsibilities of public office.”
Brinegar expressed optimism that members of Congress could come together to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the OAA and other programs that are vital to the health and economic security of millions of midlife and older women. She observed that “Rep. Ribble, (R -Wisc.) and Rep. Mulvaney, (R-S.C. ) (had) earlier in the week expressed a willingness to consider a higher income cap as a means of addressing Social Security’s long-term viability—an option once considered anathema to conservatives. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a new era in which partisan hyperbole gives way to elevated discourse and a focus on coming up with reasonable solutions to people’s very real problems.”
Over 80 enthusiastic OWL members and friends gathered at the JFK Library in Boston on October 24 to consider “What’s Next: Wise Activism for the Future”. The featured speaker was Mary Catherine Bates, who drew on her latest book, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom (Vintage Books, 2011). She discussed some of the opportunities offered by adding more relatively healthy years to adulthood, and encouraged all to be mindful of the ways we are composing our lives. In addition, Margaret Huyck, the President of the OWL National board, reported on changes in structures made to preserve effective education and advocacy work on key OWL issues.
Shown in photo: (Standing left to right) Margaret Huyck, President of OWL National board of directors; Ellen Bruce, President, Eastern Massachusetts OWL; and (seated) Mary Catherine Bateson.
By Jeanne Pinder
Founder, CEO of clearhealthcosts.com, bringing transparency to the health-care marketplace by telling people what stuff costs.
While the latest news cycles on health care have been dominated by the Affordable Care Act and questions about whether the health-insurance exchanges will open as scheduled on Oct. 1, for a lot of people that topic is a sideshow.
This is true because whether you are insured or not, the underlying costs of health-care procedures continue to rise, creating perhaps the biggest problem we face as a nation.
In our work at clearhealthcosts.com our mission is telling people what things cost in health care, a traditional mystery. Shouldn’t you know that your MRI could cost as little as $450 or as much as $1,900, or even $6,000, for the same procedure in the same city? Shouldn’t you be able to know other health costs, too? People are calling us the kayak.com of health care and the Zillow of health care.
We’re using tools like shoe-leather reporting, crowdsourcing, curation and sourcing of pricing databases, and data visualization to help people with clear, actionable information about prices.
Not long ago, questions about prices were an abstraction. Most people had health insurance, often with a policy characterized by the $20 co-pay, where everything cost just that.
But now, the situation has changed dramatically. Insured people face higher deductibles, greater out-of-pocket costs, higher co-pays and more choices about insurance. As the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, comes into full effect, the demand for knowledge about prices will only increase – if people are choosing coverage of 60 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent coverage, they’ll want to know, 60 percent of what?
What’s my co-pay? Why isn’t it covered? What’s co-insurance? What do you mean I haven’t met my deductible? How much do you want me to pay, and why?
For people who are already insured, or people who are newly insured, these questions will be increasingly important.
Look at Massachusetts, where Romneycare extended coverage to many residents who had previously been uninsured, a goal that Romneycare shares with the Affordable Care Act.
And yet: one thing that happened in Massachusetts was that health costs did not go down. The growth in costs was fueled by price increases and distortions in the marketplace, according to a report by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
“Price increases, not increases in utilization, caused most of the increases in health care costs during the past few years in Massachusetts,” the 2010 report said.
Another thing we’ve learned in our work: women are more in tune with this issue than men. Women make 80 to 90 percent of the health care decisions in this country – for their spouses (be those spouses husbands or wives), for their kids, their parents and themselves. Women often are the ones paying the bills, and arguing with the insurance company. In their 20’s and 30’s, guys often just don’t go to the doctor unless there’s some emergency; women go because they own reproductive health.
So, are we suggesting that you go on a shopping expedition, to kick the tires on your emergency appendectomy and ask for the cheapest cancer care?
No, we don’t. We’re here to help people think like consumers in the health-care marketplace: Commonly, right now, there are things that are shoppable procedures, like a walk-in clinic visit or an MRI, which you could choose to have one place or another, for one price or another. That’s the core of our data set. We’re a startup, and for right now we focus on seven metro areas – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin. We have price surveys in those areas, and nationwide we have data on what Medicare pays for procedures, the closest thing to a fixed or benchmark price in the marketplace.
Donna L. Wagner, PhD, OWL Policy Chair and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State University
If you’re helping an older parent or spouse meet long-term care needs, join the crowd. One out of five workers in the United States spends an average of 20 hours a week caring for elder family members. These unpaid services have an estimated value of $230 billion a year—$20 billion more than the $210 billion that Medicaid pays each year for long-term care.
Providing these unpaid services imposes high indirect costs on employers, in the form of reduced productivity, absenteeism, a workforce whose own health is compromised by neglect and stress, and higher turnover, as workers leave their jobs to devote themselves to caregiving. All told, these problems cost U.S. employers $33.6 billion a year.
ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) is a coalition of companies and organizations focused on employers and employed caregivers. In 2012 this organization commissioned the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) to examine “best practices in workplace eldercare.” The NAC studied the eldercare programs of 18 corporations in an array of industries with workforces ranging from 35 to 118,000 employees. The models were as ad hoc as volunteer programs managed by employees who had done caregiving themselves and as formal as paid time off for emergency eldercare situations. Interestingly, paid time off for caregiving was offered only by the smallest company (35 employees), which did so as a strategy for retaining valuable talent. Now ReACT is working with AARP to design a website with information and ideas for employers and employees.
Thirty years ago, Elaine Brody, a gerontologist, suggested that family caregiving was becoming a “normative” experience. Surveys confirm that increasing numbers of Americans care for an adult or elder with long-term care needs. As 70 million baby boomers lurch into late life, we can count on increasing demand for long-term care services for at least two decades. Absent a national system that provides high quality, long-term nonmedical and medical care, families will continue to underwrite the true cost of long-term care with time, money, and diminished retirement savings. Employers will also continue to subsidize informal caregiving indirectly, whether or not they also invest in support programs directly.
These facts prompt a host of questions and reactions. Do American families generally have even a basic understanding of how long-term care is delivered and paid for here? Many caregivers are stunned to discover that Medicare does not cover long-term care. Many find it repugnant that their elderly parents are required to spend all of their resources before they can qualify for help from the only public payer–Medicaid. And many caregivers pick up the costs of care themselves, regardless of the burden. Why is there no political demand for subsidized long-term care, given the large number of families coping with the fragmented system now in place? If care has become a normative activity, as Ms. Brody predicted, do families consider it only a personal matter—not a political one?
What about employers? How long will the nation’s employers subsidize the lack of a comprehensive system of long-term care?
This past January, Congress established a Commission on Long-Term Care, and gave it a 2014 deadline to develop a “comprehensive, coordinated and high-quality system” of long-term care. It’s time for a powerful partnership of voters, representing current and future caregivers, to join with employers to demand serious solutions for our long-term care problem.
By Donna Wagner, Ph.D., OWL Public Policy Chair & Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at
New Mexico State University
Almost two million direct care workers who have been disenfranchised from the labor market by being categorized as “companion” workers and thus exempt from the Department of Labor regulations that protect the majority of American worker have won a victory.
Starting in January, 2015, these workers will now be afforded the protections of other American workers including minimum wage and overtime protections. These workers are the nation’s long term care system; providing ongoing care and assistance to millions of disabled and frail adults. Half of these workers are minorities and 90 percent are women.
The rule issued by the Department of Labor yesterday fulfilled a promise made by President Obama two years ago that American workers should be entitled to a fair day’s pay for their work. Those workers who are employed directly by the household of the person needing assistance and not providing medical services remain exempt from the regulations.
Family caregivers rely upon the direct care workforce to provide services and care when they need help. This ruling will go a long way to improve the quality of these services and increase the likelihood of consistent and reliable care. In the US today approximately one out of every 4 households is or has been involved in helping someone remain living in the community. Today most long-term care is provided in the community; less than four percent of older adults are in long term care facilities and many of those are short-term stays. Living in the community is more than a choice – it is an economic reality. And this reality requires family members to step up to the plate to ensure needs are met and that there are qualified and reliable direct care workers on hand to support their efforts.
This victory will ensure that our future looks a little brighter as increasing number of Baby Boomers lurch into late life. For the women and men in the direct care workforce, it is an important recognition of their value and their importance to us all.