Monday, November 26, 2012

Health Care and Religious Freedom

Can we stop all the shrouded discussion on this topic and call it what it is? The reason religious freedom is being brought up with regards to the new health care law is because of the issues of women's fertility and money. With that I mean contraception, abortion, and the cost to care for the sick.

This is article I read this morning:

In the article Liberty University is contesting the individual mandate for health insurance due to their belief that because most health care policies allow for abortion and contraception Liberty University's religious freedom is being trampled on (fertility). They are also contesting the section of the bill that states employers must provide health insurance or pay a penalty (money).

You might be wondering why this is coming up again since the individual mandate issue was already discussed and decided on earlier this year by the Supreme Court. The answer is there will always be someone, or a group of someones, who look for ways around decisions. I'm not saying this from a liberal or conservative perspective, I'm saying it from a historical perspective. Our country was built on disagreements and loopholes (example- all men are created equal, but slavery is fine).

The Supreme Court's decision about the individual mandate, earlier this year, was in relation to state's rights.  Liberty University is a private institution and often times private institutions do not have to adhere to certain state or federal laws. Loophole.

I suppose what bothers me about what Liberty University is doing here really comes down to the issue of money being wrapped up in a religious cause. When I think about spiritual principles in health care, I think about caring for the sick, and the poor. I don't think about legal battles to deny coverage for the sick and the poor using convenient loopholes in man made policies.

I feel like there is a disconnect between what the law is intending to do and some religious reaction to it.

Here's an example of what that disconnect can do (note: this happened outside of the United States).

A woman visiting Ireland died of blood poising after being denied an abortion when she was already miscarrying. There was no saving the fetus at the point when the woman asked for the termination. However, because of Ireland's anti-abortion law, she was denied the medical assistance necessary. The miscarriage lasted for three days, which presumably caused her body to become septic and she passed away. Abortion in this case would have been used not for the ending of a life, but the saving of life. Which is why I become frustrated when some believe abortion is a cut and dried issue.

We need to reconnect to the human side of health care. If we boycott coverage for medical procedures and people on the premise of religious freedom and an otherwise healthy individual dies because of that boycott--- who is at fault?

I would argue unexamined principles. When we fight so hard against something often times we become blind to the full picture. We focus so intently on the rabbit, that we miss the lion about to pounce.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving for Non-Profit Groups!

Thanksgiving is this week and I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the advocacy groups out there dedicated to helping those struggling with health care.

Groups like

The Patient Advocate Foundation: 
that has an online web-chat to answer specific questions a patient may have regarding insurance access, job retention, and medical debt.

P.S.I/ Patient Services Incorporated:
that offers co-pay assistance to some patients on extremely expensive medications.

Sy's Fund:
that encourages young adults battling cancer to also pursue their artistic/ life goals outside of their health  battle.

There are so many wonderful organizations out there that I would be remiss to try and name them all. However, I am happy to update this post with additional references if you simply comment below with the name of the organization and what it focuses on.

Blessings to you and yours during this holiday season!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Basic Tips on Working With Health Insurance

As many of you are aware The Malformation of Health Care book just became available on

In the book I detail several tips and tricks on how to navigate through our very complex and often times confusing health care system.

Today I want to take you inside the book and give you some basics of where to begin. Although some of these may seem obvious, they are often things that are overlooked when thrown into a stressful situation.

Checklist for Health-Care Rights and Service

Know your benefits: Get a printout from your insurer and know your deductible and out-of- pocket maximum. This way, you can track what you are responsible for. Be an educated consumer.

Ask for a case manager. This is a contact person within your insurance company who will know your case and be of real benefit to you if it is a complicated one. If your insurance company says you can't have a case manager, keep asking. Once they see all the claims coming in, most likely the company will change its mind.

Keep all of your insurance claims and bills/booklets, which you can usually do online. Keeping hard copies is probably a good idea, just in case your computer or backup drive dies.

Appoint an organized family member/friend to help you with all of this because it can be overwhelming␣especially if you're sick.

Reach out to a hospital social worker or to local nonprofit organizations (such as the Cancer Legal Resource Center, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, etc.) for ongoing help or support. They will know of good resources to help you if you're in trouble and can save you a lot of legwork.

Write down the name of anyone you speak with at your insurance company every time you contact your provider or your provider contacts you. Make sure you record the full name, date, and a detailed synopsis of the conversation.

Follow up!

If you are denied coverage, do not be afraid to appeal. Jump through all the hoops the insurance company asks of you, and document everything. If, at the end of the appeals process, you need an attorney, you will have something to give him or her.

Learn all you can about your condition. A lot of times, insurance company workers know little about your condition.

Check with your insurance company about its fertility policies. I include this advice because many young adults are diagnosed with serious illnesses that may require heavy medications and treatments. At the point of diagnosis, someone who is in their late teens may not be thinking about future plans for a family.

Have a relationship of open communication with your doctors, who can help to advocate for you. Know that there is creative coding for blood tests and other procedures you may require to facilitate your health. A test that might not be covered if coded in one particular way may pass muster with your insurance company if coded in another way.

Know your out-of-network benefits! Sometimes you may be referred to specialists who may not be in your insurance company's network␣ What is the percentage and how does your out-of- network benefit work with your deductible? Do any of the company's in -network doctors offer the same care as the out-of-network specialist to whom you have been referred? If not, most policies have provisions to cover out-of-network providers when no in-network doctor has the same capability.

Try to connect all of your doctors, so that each knows about your health in relation to the other physicians providing your care. If you can start a group dialogue among your doctors, your care will be better.

The Malformation of Health Care (Chapter 25) Copyright Erin Havel 2012

November is National Caregivers Month

In case you missed it...

President Obama issued a proclamation that November is national caregivers month.

I'm really glad there is beginning to be a larger recognition of the people that so many of us are grateful for every day.

Caregivers are the unsung heros in illness.

The patient is called often times called "strong" "survivor" "amazing"
but these words absolutely also describe the caregivers behind the patient. Caregivers are the ones who hold everything together when the patient doesn't have anything left. Caregivers are often the ones who make sure the patient is getting to their appointments, fighting with insurance, managing the household. Caregivers are the ones who put on a brave face and offer encouragement and support.

Caregivers are simply the greatest advocates patients have during a battle.

I for one, want to take this moment to say THANK YOU!!! to all the amazing/supportive/unstoppable caregivers in our lives.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Obamacare is the law of the land"

"Obamacare is the law of the land"

That was one heck of a quote this morning from John Boehner, Speaker of the House.

Did we all know the Affordable Care Act "happened"?  Sure.

Did many people think if Mitt Romney became president that law would be gone? Yup.

So today hearing the top Republican concede that "Obamacare" is here and will not so easily be done away with, was fascinating.

Now he also quickly added that Republicans remain committed to repealing the law, but I don't know if the American public will be pleased if the next two years are spent with constant attempts to simply do away with the law rather than working to improve it.

There is no easy way out on this topic... these two very different parties are going to have to come together and actually work for the common good.

This will get interesting.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow Will Preface History

Is anyone else excited about the presidential election tomorrow?

I can't help myself. Election day is very exciting for me. I love that the majority of our country is waiting to hear who will take the reigns of America for the next four years.

I love the passion shown from both sides during the campaign.

Watching the trend of some good presidents and some less than good-- the day before the election leaves us with uncertainty of what is to come so it offers cautious optimism about the future.

We don't know how well or not well the nominees will do once they hold the coveted position... but we have hope whomever it is will do amazingly wonderful things for us and our future.

Here's to hope!

Please get out and vote tomorrow! Be a part of this incredible process!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Arteriovenous Malformations--AVMs

Arteriovenous Malformations are incredibly rare. They are among the list of conditions that most doctors don't know anything about. I was born with an AVM so I have been "medically fascinating" to most doctors I've come in contact with for the majority of my life.

This is good and bad.

The good is that I am relatively well spoken and I don't mind answering questions because I want more doctors to be aware of AVMs and what they do.

The bad is that there are still doctors who do not know how to treat these conditions but want to "try."

AVMs as I discuss in my book

(The Malformation of Health Care

show up when a fetus is developing. In order for the gestational period to do what it is supposed to do, extra blood vessels show up to help grow the fetus. Usually these extra blood vessels do their job and then reabsorb in the body. However, for one percent of the population, those blood vessels think they still need to work so they become tangled and complex in a body that isn't supposed to house them long term.

I didn't find a doctor who knew how to treat my AVM until I was in my mid-twenties. Prior to then, I had a doctor who tried to "cut" my AVM out. This caused the AVM to grow more rapidly and out of control. I of course didn't know that at the time.

We tend to put faith into our doctors. The point of this blog is to encourage those dealing with an AVM or a child with an AVM to seek out a second opinion with a doctor who really understands and actively treats this condition.

My particular AVM should not have been cut into. Ethanol embolization treatments ended up being the way to go for me.

Here's an article on my doctor. He's one of the top docs a person with an AVM can see. I highly recommend Dr. Wayne Yakes as a second opinion if a person is questioning how to treat an AVM.

I also highly recommend if you want to talk to others dealing with the same condition.

This Drug is More Expensive---Therefore It's Better

I read this article the other day:

Basically what it comes down to is that a drug company who makes a very expensive medication to save lives of those living with Chronic Leukemia is about to have their patent run out. Therefore, before the patent runs out and the drug is allowed to be made generic, they are attempting to raise awareness of their second line drug which has a longer patent in place.

I have no problem with making patients aware of another drug available to treat the same condition. What I struggle with is that the first drug (that is about to go generic) is a powerhouse that has saved hundreds if not thousands of people from an early grave.  What this company is doing, in order to make sure their profits continue to soar is they are attempting to sway doctors to the more expensive drug by saying that first drug is less effective.

Both of these drugs have been around for a decade. I feel like money is driving care in this scenario, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Truthfully, if a person is unable to take a generic for whatever reason then their options are limited--- but if there is an option to save your life by paying $500 a year for a medication that used to cost $5,000 a month prior to generics. My vote is save yourself from bankruptcy and stress--- stick with what works, and don't play health games over profits.

What do you think?