Not since the 1960s has the U.S. Congress seriously considered the issue of mental health. In 1963, it passed President Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act, and a few years later, Medicare and Medicaid designated funding for the community services mentioned in the bill.
Now, nearly 50 years later, lawmakers in both houses are considering bipartisan bills that would reform mental health care in America.
The Senate bill is S. 1945, the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015,” introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The House bill is H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).
Both bills address two major issues:
• Improving access to mental health care under Medicaid. A decades-old rule in Medicaid excludes patients between the ages of 21 and 64 from going to freestanding psychiatric hospitals. The bills would allow an exception so that short-term psychiatric hospitals can participate in Medicaid.
• Clarifying disclosure of patient information under HIPAA. Because of the way doctors and other healthcare providers interpret the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it’s difficult for family members or caregivers to get information about the diagnosis or treatment of a loved one. The bills would clarify what information can be disclosed, allowing for greater access to family members.
What were Airbnb, Uber, Walgreen’s and Peapod doing at a White House Conference on Aging?
Giving us a glimpse of the future.
In case you missed it, 10,000 people are turning 65 years of age every day. That’s expected to continue for the next 15 years - and the private sector is taking notice.
There was Seth Sternberg, CEO of Honor, one of a number of corporations that took part in the once-in-a-decade event designed to guide policies around aging. Honor’s goal is a heady one -“to spark a revolution in solving the monumental problem of how we care for our aging parents.” His well-funded company - investors include Marc Andreesen and Jessica Alba—is using technology to build a new model to match people with caregivers; at the conference Sternberg announced plans to give away $1 million in free home care in ten cities.
During the day-long conference, interspersed with announcements of new administration initiatives, company after company demonstrated how the private sector is finding opportunity in the nation’s changing demographics. From travel to grocery shopping to home care, there’s a promising partnership between aging and technology on the horizon.
The nation would need to spend $470 billion to replace the work done by the more than 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. That’s one of the findings from a recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.
Caregivers themselves pay a high price; the study noted that adult children, mostly daughters, reduce their own paid work to care for parents, at a lifetime cost that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to research by the MetLife Foundation, female caregivers lose on average $324,000 in lost wages and Social Security benefits.
The good news is that lawmakers are taking action. The recently introduced bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, including creation of an advisory body to bring together relevant federal agencies and others from the private and public sectors to advise and make recommendations.
And Rep.Nita Lowey plans to reintroduce her Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, which would create a credit that would be added to earnings to determine future benefits. This is particularly important for women who are more likely to take time out of the workforce to serve as unpaid caregivers.
WL supports both pieces of legislation and encourages everyone to ask their congressional delegation to do the same.
A number of caregiving-related initiatives were also announced at the White House Conference on Aging. For example, the employer coalition ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time), Care.com and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are creating the tools employers need to support employees who are caregivers. Bank of America announced its Bank of America Merrill Lynch Longevity Training Program for human resources and benefit plan professionals.
The talk with your health care professionals. The one
about weight—and the devastating consequences
extra pounds can have on women’s health.
OWL’s latest article on Huffington Post examines the impacts of obesity on women.
Study after study confirms it: America is facing a serious adult obesity epidemic. The latest report from JAMA Internal Medicine found that 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women are now overweight or obese—a sharp increase from 20 years ago when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women fell into those categories.
(A person is overweight if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.)
Women were more likely to be obese than overweight, with 37 percent of women in the former category and 30 percent in the latter. Altogether, two out of every three women in the U.S. were above a normal weight.
This—no pun intended—is a very big deal. Carrying too much weight raises the risk of serious, life-threatening diseases including Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Being obese affects certain recovery outcomes, as well: Obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are 35 percent more likely than normal-weight women to die of their cancer.
Obesity is also a significant predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly among women, and CVD is the leading killer of women in the U.S.
This year, as Medicare turns 50, it’s a good time to look back on its half-century of success in providing access to health care for hundreds of millions of older Americans. It’s also a good time to look forward at ways we can strengthen this essential program for generations to come.
One critical way is to allow Medicare to cover hearing aids. Surprisingly, America’s original safety net for seniors doesn’t cover hearing aids or routine hearing exams.
If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, you know how important a hearing aid can be to quality of life. And chances are, you do: hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S., affecting nearly 20 million Americans over the age of 45. Left untreated, it can have serious social and emotional consequences: a National Council on Aging study found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression and less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids.
Yet, because of the lack of Medicare coverage, many seniors who need them go without. The average price of a pair of hearing aids is around $4,500—a heavy burden or entirely out of reach for many older Americans.
Congress is currently considering legislation that would remove the barriers in the Social Security Act that prevent Medicare from covering hearing aids. H.R. 1653—the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, is an important step toward bringing Medicare into the 21st century and improving access to hearing aids and exams.
As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th birthday - as well as our own 35th anniversary—we reflect on the role Medicare has played over five decades in the well-being of our nation’s seniors, and we encourage Congress to pursue actions such as H.R. 1653 that will strengthen and modernize this essential program.
By Donna L. Wagner, Ph.D.
Interim Dean, College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State University
Talking about death and end of life issues is probably the last thing most people are interested in doing. Many believe that it’s sad, morbid and unpleasant. Perhaps that’s why we have developed so many euphemisms for death: “He passed,” “She is no longer with us,” “he ate the banana,” “kicked the bucket” or “crossed over.” No matter what your preferred term may be, it is likely seen as more palatable and acceptable than using the “d” word.
At the recent health symposium on the topic of death convened by the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University, Gail Rubin, who organized the death café during our lunch, reminded the audience of this important fact: “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant and talking about death won’t make you dead.”
The conference was organized to give the community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, both residents and health professionals the opportunity to spend the day talking about the very personal topic of death; more than 400 people showed up.
“A Beautiful Death: What will you choose?” opened with a presentation by Peggy Battin, a bioethicist from the University of Utah who has been studying end of life issues her entire professional career. She challenged the audience with important ethical dilemmas that are timely today as the circumstances around the end of life have changed and are changing due to health technology and medical advancements that can keep us alive. These changes raise the bar for us all as we watch our parents and grandparents face a complicated set of decisions that no one had to make in the past.
Around the nation, end of life issues are being discussed. In part this is a function of an aging population and increasingly large health expenditures for care at the end of life.
Palliative care is not available in all communities and many health professionals are not clear of the value of palliative or what is the scope of the care and what should not be included.
Absent a more rationale and informed approach to the end of life on the part of patients and health professionals, the end of life will continue to be an expensive proposition for our health care system. And, more importantly, unnecessary pain and suffering for the dying and their loved ones.
In a 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health “End-of-Life Care Issues: A Personal, Economic, Public Policy and Public Health Crisis” describes the lack of advance care plans in place for most Americans. The authors point out the irony that while the majority of Americans want their wishes to be respected at the end of their lives, only about one-third say they have completed paperwork like the Five Wishes or other advance care planning documents.
Who would you want making decisions about your care when you are dying and unable to speak for yourself? If you haven’t been talking about your wishes, either with your family or preferably through a written document that can be shared with your physician and at the hospital where many die today, the decision-maker will likely be someone who doesn’t know you or if they do, doesn’t know what you want.
Every state in the nation has an advanced care form online for you to use to memorialize your wishes. It’s important to get all the information you need to make an informed decision that is right for you. This is best managed by talking to those you love and others who know something about end of life situations. If you still have trouble talking about death, just fill out the form online and hand a copy to a trusted family member. It is the most important gift you can give them.
Read more about the symposium here.
OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing and venture capital campaign was featured in a Forbes article:
Divorced, depressed and more than a million dollars in debt in 1997 due to a troubled real estate development, Carol Gardner’s world was falling apart. She was 52. “My cupboard was bare with no money coming in, I was living on four credit cards,” Gardner says. “My divorce attorney’s advice was: ‘Sweetheart, get a therapist or a dog.’”
Gardner opted for an English bulldog, named her Zelda and hoped she’d double as a therapist and help relaunch her life. A friend, knowing Gardner’s background was advertising, suggested entering Zelda in the local pet store’s annual Christmas greeting card contest. So Gardner borrowed a Santa hat from a neighbor, filled the tub with bubble bath, lowered Zelda in the water, snapped the photo and sent it in with this caption: For Christmas, I got a dog for my husband…good trade, huh?
Weeks later, Gardner won the contest, got a year’s supply of dog food and had a life-changing brainstorm in the process: a greeting card company centered around Zelda sporting different outfits.
Though Gardner was warned that 97% of greeting card startups fail, she was determined. “I had no choice. It was about survival.” Nearly 18 years and three Zeldas later, Zelda Wisdom today generates more than $50 million annually from cards, calendars, posters, books and gifts featuring the iconic bulldog.
This week, Gardner was named one of 10 women in the first Hall of Notables — remarkable encore entrepreneurs honored by OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders), the advocacy organization for women over 40. There isn’t a shrinking violet in the Hall, which includes Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot who’s now a leadership coach; Patricia Lizarraga, Managing Partner of Hypatia Capital Group; journalist and author Gail Sheehy and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.
Every May, OWL, formerly known as The Older Women’s League, releases a Mother’s Day Report about concerns of women as they age. This year’s report is “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers after 40.” It differs a bit from past reports, but the theme — the need for economic security — is not new.
“Our Women Mean Business” offers inspiration and hope to women who are discouraged by the pay equity gap, the glass ceiling, and gender and age discrimination.
OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report cites research that differs from the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurship is just for young people. During the past 10 years, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in this country has been among those aged 55 to 64; in 2013, one-fifth of all new businesses were started by 50- to 59-year-old entrepreneurs, and 15 percent created by those age 50 and over.
Women decide to open their own businesses for good reasons. Even though there are laws against gender discrimination, gender gaps still exist.
OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing was featured in an article from Next Avenue, a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing both challenges and opportunities of ‘Adult Part 2’, and that recognizes that what we could all use an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what’s next.
Just 7 percent of all VC funding goes to businesses led by women, according to OWL’s new report timed to Mother’s Day, Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.
“We are launching a campaign to increase that number to 20 percent by 2020,” says Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, vice president of OWL’s Board of Directors and a partner in a Miami law firm. “When you realize $48 billion was invested by venture capitalists in 2014, 20 percent of that would be a sizeable improvement.”
OWL plans a three-pronged effort to get more investment money in the hands of female entrepreneurs.
First, the 35-year-old organization will ask its Hall of Notables women “to speak to the VC community so we can put a real face to the statistics,” Rodriguez-Taseff says. She adds: “Nothing speaks success to VCs like a successful entrepreneur.”
Second, OWL will reach out to institutional investors — nonprofits, universities and funds that invest in socially-responsible projects — to ensure they factor gender into their investment strategy.
And there’ll be a grassroots effort around the country. “When owls flock together, it’s called a parliament, so OWL will also be convening parliaments around the country to make sure venture capitalists more evenly distribute their funds,” Rodriguez-Taseff says.
OWL reports that women make up only 4.2 percent of the 542 partner-level positions at the 92 largest VC firms. “People give money to people who look like them. It’s not an intentional slight, but what a Harvard study called ‘unconscious bias,’” says Rodriguez-Taseff.
In case you were wondering where the next economic boom is coming from, OWL believes it lies with the increasing number of women entrepreneurs.
That and more is included in OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report, ‘Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40’ also highlights obstacles that could prevent that potential from being reached, including the meager amount of venture capital going to women. Women received a dismal 7% in VC funds in the first half of 2013 and there are no indications it has gotten any better.
The report was released May 6 at the National Press Club; the briefing included information on OWL’s upcoming campaign to increase the percentage of VC funds going to women from 7% to 20% by 2020. OWL is the only national nonprofit focusing on opening the VC funding tap to more women.
OWL is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. “We were founded because women faced many more challenges achieving economic security than men,” says OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “What’s exciting about the trends we’re seeing now is the emphasis on getting women the tools they need to open new businesses. And it’s not necessarily about fairness. It’s about more economic opportunity for everyone.”
Women are also ideally suited to solve marketplace problems, since they make close to 85% of all consumer decisions.
“Our nation needs the talents of 100% of our population,” said OWL Board Chair Margaret Huyck. “And if we don’t start making sure everyone has equal access to capital, we will have a tougher time competing globally. Because a number of countries are waking up to the untapped talents of women – and they’re being very aggressive about changing the equation.”
The report includes OWL’s first-ever Hall of Notables, ten remarkable women who embody the spirit of encore entrepreneurism. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, who now runs a successful consulting business; Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc.; Svetlana Kim, entrepreneur and best-selling author; Kay Koplovitz, Founder of USA Network; Patricia Lizarraga, managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group; Nell Merlino, Chair, Personal Data Independence Trust; Jeanne Sullivan, a founding principal of StarVest; award-winning author Gail Sheehy; Terrie Williams, an inspirational speaker and writer; and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.
A panel discussion featuring many of the honorees will follow opening remarks by Latifa Lyles, Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor. Lisa Stark, Al Jazeera America correspondent, formerly with ABC News, will moderate.
Did you know that lying about your heart symptoms could save your life? It’s called the “Yentl syndrome” and it was coined in 1991 by then-NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy. It describes how women had to misrepresent their symptoms to get the same life-saving heart treatment as men.
Turns out that the syndrome still exists. Men’s heart health is improving, but women in the U.S. are dying from heart disease at an alarming rate. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women, killing more women each year than all of the cancers combined.
And the reasons are gender-based: misinformation, misdiagnosis, and mistreatment. A 2014 survey shows that an alarming 45 percent of women ages 25-60 don’t know heart disease is their number one killer. Some doctors are unversed with the different symptoms women experience, such as the nausea, backache, jaw pain, extreme fatigue or shortness of breath that are women’s signs of heart attack, rather than the crushing chest pain that men first experience. Treatment options are based on medical research conducted on men; only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies are women.
I had the pleasure this week to attend a dinner hosted by the heart of Washington, Esther Coopersmith, to honor Barbra Streisand and celebrate the Women’s Heart Alliance, which Streisand co-founded. She spoke passionately about the Alliance’s awareness campaign, “Fight the Lady Killer.” The campaign builds on the research of organizations like the Society for Women’s Health Research which has consistently promoted research on the sex differences in disease and disorders. The “Fight the Lady Killer” campaign includes raising awareness among women and their doctors, more money for research, and investments in treatment geared toward women.
Heart disease is not just a health issue; it’s an economic one as well. The impact of heart disease poses a significant threat to women’s economic security. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010, the total costs of cardiovascular diseases in the United States were estimated to be $444 billion. Treatment of these diseases accounts for about $1 of every $6 spent on health care in this country. With women still too often under-employed or underpaid, serious illness has a disproportionate impact on them, easily undermining their and their families’ finances. The national economy pays a double price: it overloads our health care system and takes valuable resources out of the workforce.
Next week, OWL will be releasing a report highlighting the economic contributions women entrepreneurs are making to our economy. It also examines the gender gap they face getting access to the $30 billion in venture capital invested each year. In 2013, women received a mere 7 percent of those funds.
I was struck by the similarities between the investment gender gap and the gender based barriers in diagnosing and treating heart disease. For one example, a number of male investors pride themselves in “knowing” what a successful entrepreneur looks like—a man. It turns out many doctors are convinced they “know” what a heart attack looks like—a guy clutching his chest.
The good news in the venture capital world is that pressure is mounting from inside and outside the industry to change. One of the factors was the front-page stories covering the trial over Ellen Pao’s accusation of gender discrimination against the VC firm where she worked. She lost, but many believe the conversations surrounding the case moved the needle.
“Fight the Lady Killer” is poised to have a similar impact on women’s heart disease. Barbra Streisand brings together that rare combination of dedication, resources and political intelligence—she makes it clear that, despite her personal politics, this must be a nonpartisan issue.
When Barbra Streisand uses her remarkable voice to talk about the absurdity of a singular approach to treating a disease that expresses vastly different symptoms in women than it does in men, to urge lawmakers to increase the National Institutes of Health budget dedicated to women’s heart health, to remind us that heart disease kills 1-in-3 women a year and that we can and must act, people listen—and act.
As we prepare to celebrate “Mothering Sunday,” remembering those women who have nurtured us along our path, one way to honor them is to make sure they avoid—or survive—heart disease.
Read the full article.
Did you know that women entrepreneurs—armed with the right resources—are poised to create millions of new jobs?
That’s why OWL is launching a campaign to raise the level of venture capital investment in women from 7% to 20% by 2020.
Learn more about this and our first-ever Hall of Notables on May 6 at
the National Press Club when OWL releases its 2015 Mother’s Day Report, “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.”
Join us for this thought-provoking program, where you’ll hear from:
Latifa Lyles, Director of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and many of our Hall of Notable Honorees, women who embody the spirit of encore entrepreneurism—the ability to reinvent oneself, to continually seek out new opportunities, and to give back to communities: Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, who now runs a successful consulting business; Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc.; Svetlana Kim, entrepreneur and best-selling author; Kay Koplovitz,founder of USA Network; Patricia Lizarraga, managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group; Nell Merlino, creator of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence; Jeanne Sullivan, a founding principal of StarVest, who was recently cited by Forbes magazine as one of the “Women Changing the World”; Gail Sheehy, award-winning author; Terrie Williams, inspirational speaker; and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.*
Our moderator is Lisa Stark, Al Jazeera America correspondent, formerly with ABC News.
Seating is limited, so please RSVP to info@owl-national for OWL’s May 6 briefing, 2:30-4:00 p.m., at the National Press Club in D.C.
More than 10,000 pharmacies across the nation are embracing a new service that helps patients better manage their medications by coordinating, or “synchronizing,” prescription refills. The goal is to improve medication adherence outcomes.
Virginia Commonwealth University research found that the average patient skips nearly five refills of chronic medications over the course of 12 months; the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) reports that one-third of patients who take regular medications miss doses because they run out before refilling their prescription.
The new service is called Appointment Based Model (ABM). In ABM, also known as “med sync,” pharmacists synchronize chronic prescription refills so that they all come due on the same day each month. The program eliminates the need to call in multiple prescription refills, reduces the number of trips to the pharmacy and provides an opportunity for patients to meet one-on-one with their pharmacist on a monthly basis to discuss their medications.
“There are many factors that keep patients from adhering strictly to their medication regimen,” says Tim Weippert, Executive Vice President of Thrifty White Pharmacy. “Pharmacists are actively working with their patients to simplify the prescription refill process and thus improve medication adherence that is so critical to maintaining good health, resulting in healthier outcomes for their patients.”
More information is available at the APhA Foundation, including a zip code locator to find nearby pharmacies offering the service.
Guest post by Bonnie S. Muheim, a health care consultant and freelance writer based in Washington, DC.
One hundred years ago, people rarely saw doctors when they were ill. Available medicines often did not do much to alleviate infection and disease, and treatments to reduce pain and suffering were few. Life spans reflected these limitations.
Fast forward to today. We have a broad network of medical specialists and subspecialists who deal with the entire spectrum of medical conditions, illnesses and diseases. Scientific research has given us multiple categories of medicines and, within each category, numerous medications that can moderate, arrest and often cure illness and disease. Happily, our life spans reflect the evolution of knowledge and the development of innovative and effective medicines.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are witnessing an unprecedented growth of older adults and, by 2050, there will be double the number of people age 65 or older in the United States that we had in 2010. The growth can be attributed to baby boomers reaching senior status and the fact that Americans are simply living longer. Where once our ancestors got sick and perished, nowadays our serious illnesses often can be managed with proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Many acute or deadly illnesses, such as AIDS and some cancers, have become chronic illnesses. Other potentially fatal conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, are now manageable with medication and close medical supervision.
The good news, too, is that while older Americans are living longer, they also are leading more independent, productive, and healthier lives. Many are putting off their retirement and a new focus on healthy living is encouraging seniors to remain active and engaged in their families, jobs and community.
Which leads us to the role those of us with mid- to senior status can take to keep it all going. Frankly, the older we get, the less we can afford to let things go. I am not just referring to our personal health, wrinkles and inevitable weight redistribution. We also have a social responsibility to keep ourselves in good shape. Doing so benefits the aggregate as well as ourselves, and staying healthy minimizes the burden on our health care system, which we all know too well faces difficult challenges. The ounce of prevention we take now can be a pound of cure later – and also a saving of uncounted dollars to our individual and health system’s pocketbooks.
So, what can we do to make the most of our lives and maintain a healthy lifestyle? Absolutely stay active. For sure mind your diet and nutrition. Don’t even think putting off screenings and vaccines that potentially could save your life. Empower yourself with knowledge by asking the right questions and taking advantage of the resources available to you. To all of that I would add: Seek proper treatment for what ails you and follow the prescribed course of action, particularly when it comes to medications. Learn as much as you can about your condition and meds, take your meds as prescribed and work with your physician to find the best treatment for YOU, not the one based on cost or convenience.
One hundred years ago our parents and grandparents didn’t have nearly the choices we have today. But with those choices comes responsibility. Make good informed decisions in managing your health. You’ll be glad you did – and so will your own children and grandchildren.
Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful in healthy aging: