Tag Archives: Health and Human Services

Stanek weekend question: Thoughts on Sebelius as she rides off into the sunset?

Kathleen-SebeliusI was in Ireland when news broke last week that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was resigning, but a reader wrote asking that I give you all an opportunity to talk about her.

Indeed, in the minds of pro-lifers, Kathleen Sebelius is a scandalous, abominable, corrupt abortion protector, going back to her days as governor of Kansas, and perhaps before that.

Now, as overseer of the Obamacare rollout, it seems just that her name will now and forever be tied to failure.

What are your thoughts of Sebelius, one of the highest ranking members of America’s abortion cartel?

Join #BeTransparent TweetFest tomorrow

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Tomorrow pro-lifers will take to Twitter to pressure Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to #BeTransparent about abortion coverage in Obamacare.

Sign up here, where you’ll also find sample tweets as well as twitter handles of people to ping in your tweets.

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to hide the abortion surcharge, making it difficult if not impossible to find the deadly tariff in most insurance policies in exchanges.

For starters, insurance companies are banned from mentioning the surcharge in ads or plan descriptions. It is only after one chooses a plan that one may (or may not) be told. To rephrase Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quip, you have to buy it to find out if abortion is in it.

kail460Tomorrow the rabidly pro-abortion HHS secretary is expected to testify at a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Republicans need to add the covert abortion surcharge to their list of questions about the spastic rollout of Obamacare on October 1.

Here’s a primer on the abortion secrecy in the exchanges, from a source on the Hill:

  • The ACA contains the most radical departure from the principles of the Hyde amendment to become federal law since the 1970s.  It deviates from decades of abortion policy by allowing taxpayer money to flow to plans that include coverage for abortion on demand. As a part of this deviation from the Hyde amendment, plans that include abortion will charge a mandatory abortion surcharge.
  • As the exchanges have gone “live” this month, it has become evident that it is nearly impossible for consumers seeking exchange plans to identify which, if any, plans on their state exchange exclude abortion.
  • Even if consumers are able to log into the exchanges and view the available plans, the information posted online does not indicate whether abortion is covered or the price of the mandatory abortion surcharge.
  • The “Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” (HR 3279) was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to require prominent, transparent disclosure of abortion coverage for each plan offered on an exchange.
  • This is vital information since the many plans that include elective abortion are required by law to impose a mandatory monthly abortion surcharge.  These surcharges are not optional.  Once you sign up for a plan with abortion coverage, you MUST pay the surcharge.  Doubtlessly there are many Americans who would object to paying a surcharge into a fund to be used for the purpose of destroying innocent human lives.
  • When you buy a house, the mortgage documents always clearly disclose the total cost of the mortgage with interest over the length of the loan. Yet, when search for insurance plans that could include an abortion surcharge, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to simply find out if the plan includes abortion.
  • A telephone representative with the D.C. Health Link said that persons wishing to know about abortion coverage should call each individual health insurance carrier individually.  The average person seeking coverage on a marketplace should not have to spend hours trying to obtain basic information about whether or not they will have to pay a surcharge for a procedure that dismembers and chemically poisons innocent unborn children.
  • If consumers call the insurance companies they still may not get answers to their questions. Contacting CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield in Maryland, the Charlotte Lozier Institute was told that customer-service representatives “don’t get a full contract” to have on hand and the “part of the site [that would allow her to determine whether abortion was covered] is not working.”
  • A representative with the “Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat” told one consumer “You may have to wait until you pick a plan to see if they cover abortions.” Once an individual enrolls is clearly too late, since he or she will be required to pay the monthly abortion surcharge at that point.
  • The ACA law says that enrollees can only be notified of abortion coverage “as part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment.”  Only providing this information as a part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation at the time of enrollment is unacceptable, but it appears that even that requirement is being ignored, since the summary of benefits documents posted on the federally facilitated exchange don’t even list whether the plan includes abortion or not.
  • So far we know that at least two states, Connecticut and Rhode Island, do not have a single plan that excludes elective abortion.

Make plans now to participate in the #BeTransparent TweetFest. Also be sure to click on the Facebook events page that you are attending.

Sebelius: Abortion between woman, doctor – and priest

sebelliusI’m alarmed about restrictions being passed by various legislatures that take out of the control of women, and their partners, and their doctors, and their priests, their own decisions about their healthcare.

~ Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asserting that abortion restrictions “interfere with a woman’s relationship with her priest,” via Gateway Pundit, June 25

[Video at the link]

Stanek weekend question I: Should the government be involved in organ transplant decisions?

sarah_murnaghan_600It’s already happening. In less than a week, two cases involving children in need of lung transplants have gone to court challenging government policy.

This leads to the larger question: Should the government be intervening in this sort of healthcare policy to begin with? Be sure to vote in the poll at the bottom of this post.

The backstory, from Politico, June 4:

A federal judge in Philadelphia has granted a temporary restraining order in the second case involving children needing lung transplants in as many days, raising questions among ethicists about political pressure, emotional media coverage and case-by-case decision making about allocating scarce organs.

The family of 11-year-old Javier Acostafiled suit on Thursday against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, seeking broader eligibility for a potentially lifesaving lung transplant for the boy. The family of Sarah Murnaghan [pictured above], 10, had gone to court a day earlier.

Both families challenged the current national transplant policy, which puts children younger than 12 first in line for organs from a child, even though pediatric lung donors are even rarer than adult donors. Both families wanted the age limitation lifted, so they could be eligible for organs from adult donors, too.

In both cases, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ordered Sebelius to put the children on the adult waiting list. The children, who have cystic fibrosis and are at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, are now on both the adult and pediatric waiting lists….

The lung transplantation policy has come under fire from some members of Congress, too, who had pressed Sebelius to intervene. Some conservative blogs said she was acting like a “death panel”….

But experts in the transplantation community are worried that the cases could send a troubling message. Namely, if you’ve got a problem with a transplant waiting list policy, take your case to your local television station and sue the government.

And while you’re at it, recruit your congressional delegation to the cause, medical establishment be damned. Then you may move up the list….

This particular policy was implemented in 2005 after five years of deliberation over how to replace the first-come, first-served standard. That had been the norm to that date and paid no heed to medical urgency.

Commenter Jim on Dustin Siggins’ Facebook page noted:

On the one hand, Sebelius did the right thing by staying out of it (IMO). On the other, why does the government mandate age restrictions on these types of things? They should stay out of it, altogether.

If the girl was on the transplant list and went through the same screening as everyone else, she should qualify for whatever her doctors believe is best. Government involvement prohibits the doctors from doing their job and changes the medical market to look at society as a whole rather than as numerous individuals.

In this case, mob rule wins… everyone better just hope and pray that the girl survives or Sebelius and the Federal government will look like geniuses. And yes, this sets a terrible precedent that if you can sway a politician, you have a better chance than those already in line.

Your thoughts?

 

[Photo via Philly.com]

Baby death panels

Guest post by Jacqueline Halbig, principal at Sovereign Global Solutions and former senior policy adviser for the Dept. of Health and Human Services

Services_CSI_NICUIf Obamacare is supposed to increase health care access and affordability, why does it seem to punish those most in need? Consider minority babies, both unborn and born.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that an administration which redefines abortion as health care continues to expand funding to Planned Parenthood, which operates the nation’s largest abortion chain.

Planned Parenthood is underwritten by taxpayer dollars to the tune of $480 million ($365 million from federal funds and the rest from state and local funds). Now, under Obamacare, Medicaid expansion will further fill its coffers.

This type of funding is even more disturbing given that Planned Parenthood appears to be targeting minority populations with its abortion “services.” A 2011 study called “Racial Targeting and Population Control” by Life Dynamics Incorporated revealed that Planned Parenthood clinics are 2-1/2 times more likely to be in neighborhoods with a disproportionately high Black and Hispanic population.

But it is equally troubling that if they survive life in the womb, these babies, especially those born prematurely, now face an even greater uphill battle – receiving needed health care.

Every year between November and March, there are outbreaks of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, an illness similar to the flu.

RSV1RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis, and hospitalization for children under the age of one; premature infants and children before the age of two with congenital heart or chronic lung disease are considered to be at highest risk.

Each year RSV causes two million hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths. In addition, RSV disproportionately affects minority and especially African American babies, who, according to the Centers for Disease Control, are 59% percent more likely to be born prematurely than white infants.

While there is no vaccine for RSV, there is an FDA-approved treatment available. When it became available in 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued evidence-based guidelines for its use, recommending that the treatment be administered once per month during outbreak season (an average of five months total).

But in 2009, with no clear medical evidence for doing so, the AAP both shrunk the pool of eligible infants and reduced the number of RSV treatments that would be made available – for some babies down to 3 doses, while for others as low as 1 dose. The only clear reason given was cost.

Unfortunately, the AAP’s guidelines are widely implemented by Medicaid and insurance providers, who in turn followed suit and greatly reduced coverage.

In response, concerned groups of parents, prenatal advocates, and medical providers such as the National Perinatal Association, the National Medical Association, and the National Black Nurses Association have pointed out that there is no definitive research to support these changes (indeed, these are not FDA-approved doses) and are urging the AAP to reconsider their recommendations.

If cost is the issue, let’s consider the cost of non-treatment. A 2010 study by the NMA and NBNA showed the rate of hospitalization and emergency room visits without proper treatment for RSV is astronomical.

For example, a child not properly treated for RSV is five times more likely to be hospitalized and more than twice as likely to visit an emergency room visit than with the flu.

But for those premature infants who received treatment, hospitalization decreased by 55-80%. Furthermore, infants who received the recommended treatment had decreased emergency room and physician office visits. As a result, there are cost savings associated with proper treatment.

Since RSV disproportionately affects African American, Hispanic and premature babies, there is great concern that this rationing policy will further increase health disparities in these communities.

So what’s the real benefit of limiting this treatment? If Obamacare’s objective is to make health care more accessible and affordable, an honest cost benefit analysis would respect the bottom line and acknowledge that an ounce of RSV prevention is cheaper than a pound of emergency room cure – unless their bottom line equates death as the cheapest option.

To support the children and families affected by this rationing decision, please sign this petition at Change.org.

Is AAP’s “routine Plan B Rx for teen girls” step too far for Obama?

During Thanksgiving week the American Academy of Pediatrics announced its recommendation that “morning after” prescriptions be issued to adolescent girls as a matter of course….

This approach, besides being deeply insulting to the human dignity of adolescents, exposes the reality that when we talk about sex these days, we all too often put good health and good sense aside, despite the rhetoric about “women’s health.” (Even the pediatricians do!) “Women’s health” routinely assumes promiscuity, whatever the age, and despite the risks to the girl’s or woman’s physical and mental health….

The AAP recommendation, as it happens, might be a step too far for even the Obama administration. Earlier this year, when the Department of Health and Human Services overruled a Federal Drug Administration recommendation that Plan B be made available over the counter, none other than Barack Obama declared: “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine…. The reason Kathleen [Sebelius] made this decision was she could not be confident that a ten-year-old or an eleven-year-old going into a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.”

Could we actually take a few steps back together here? Toward something healthier than a wholesale surrender of innocence, medical knowledge, and common sense?

~ Kathryn Jean Lopez (pictured), National Review Online, December 3

President Obama doubling down on contraception mandate

Yeah. Well it’s absolutely true that religious liberty is critical… that’s the reason why we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions.

But we did say that big Catholic hospitals or universities who employ a lot of non-Catholics, and who receive a lot of federal money, that for them to be in a position to say to a woman who works there you can’t get that from your insurance company, even though the institution isn’t paying for it, that that crosses the line where that woman, she suddenly is gonna have to bear the burden and the cost of that.

And that’s not fair.

~ President Barack Obama defending the Health and Human Services ruling on mandatory contraception coverage by religious-affiliated organizations during an interview with New Orleans’ WWL-TV, via Mediaite, July 10

43 Catholic institutions file lawsuits against HHS contraception mandate

From Modern Healthcare, today:

Catholic institutions across the country filed 12 federal lawsuits against HHS alleging the department’s mandate over contraception coverage for employer-provided health plans violated their religious freedoms.

The plaintiffs include 11-hospital Franciscan Alliance, Mishawaka, IN, and five-hospital Catholic Health Services of Long Island (NY).

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of 43 Catholic hospitals, schools and churches across the nation in U.S. District Court in eight states and in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Thomas [sic] Dolan issued a statement saying they will continue to work with President Barack Obama’s administration to resolve the concerns, but that “time was running out,” forcing the Catholic institutions to resort to legal actions.

“Though the conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day,” Dolan said in a statement….

HHS issued an interim final rule in August 2011 requiring that employer-based health plans provide contraception coverage with no out-of-pocket cost. The administration failed to fully quell criticism of the policy with a modification in February stipulating that insurance companies would pay for the benefit if employers raised religious objections.

One of those 43 institutions is the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, which filed a 57-page lawsuit listing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, among others, as defendants. The school’s president, the Rev. Thomas Jenkins, sent a message to the university’s community on Monday.

Seems to me Fr. Jenkins bends over backwards to distance himself from Catholic teaching against the use of contraceptives:

Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services. Many of our faculty, staff and students – both Catholic and non-Catholic – have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives. As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.

Still, I give Fr. Jenkins credit for joining in the lawsuit, which requires a bit of crow eating. And, in fact, the lawsuits are not about the use of contraception but about the freedom to practice religion.

Back to the article:

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend also filed its own lawsuit and questioned how the government exempted certain institutions from the mandate.

“The government has no place defining ‘religious employer’ so narrowly that it only includes houses of worship,” a diocese statement read.This reduces the freedom of religion to the freedom of worship.”

Franciscan University President Terence Henry released a YouTube video stating “the board of trustees… unanimously approved this unprecedented action to stop the HHS mandate, which amounts to nothing less than a grave threat to our constitutionally protected First Amendment right to freedom of religion.” He also does a great job promoting Catholic teaching on contraceptives.

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Last week Franciscan was the first to announce it was dropping health insurance for its students, followed quickly by Ave Maria University’s announcement that it, too, is considering making the same move.

Ave Maria filed a lawsuit against the mandate in February. Here’s the new total, quoting Catholic News Agency:

At least 11 previous lawsuits have already been filed against the mandate by states, colleges, private employers and organizations throughout the U.S.

Now, 12 new lawsuits are being filed by 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies in a dozen different jurisdictions across the country.

The Archdioceses of New York and Washington, D.C, are part of the lawsuits, as are Catholic Charities organizations in several dioceses and the Catholic publishing group Our Sunday Visitor.

Our Sunday Visitor simultaneously released an inspiring editorial, “Why we are suing the government”:

It seems to us hardly a coincidence that this suit is taking place in our centennial year. Founded 100 years ago by then-Father John Noll, Our Sunday Visitor from its beginning sought to inform Catholics about the issues of the day, form them in the Faith, and defend that Faith from attack. It was Father John Noll who stood up to those who attacked Catholic immigrants as un-American and seditious. It was Father John Noll who faced down false preachers who spread slanders about the Church. It was Father John Noll who resisted the power of the Ku Klux Klan when it was such a powerful political force. And it is in his courageous spirit that we invoke as we engage in this great struggle today.

We know that many Americans – and even many Catholics – are confused about this debate. Politicians and elements of the news media have sought to make it a war against women or contraception, and they have portrayed the Church as seeking to impose its values on others or as being covertly political.

We also acknowledge that many Catholics do not understand the reasons for the Church’s moral opposition to contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. This lack of understanding points to a significant catechetical need that the Church should address internally.

We reiterate, however, that this is not about the legality of such practices in society, nor is it about how many Catholics understand the Church’s position. It is about the Church’s right to practice what it preaches.