The Daily Rise: Wednesday, May 18

All-Time Low

The number of uninsured patients has reached an all-time low, Morning Consult reports on newly-released data.

In the past year, more than 7.4 million more people have gained access to health insurance, effectively dropping the uninsurance rate nearly 2.5 percent. In 2014, 11.5 percent of Americans lacked health insurance. In 2015, 9.1 percent were uninsured, according to the National Health Interview Survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unsurprisingly, government officials used the data to herald the success of the Affordable Care Act.

“Today’s report is further proof that our country has made undeniable and historic strides thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. “The Affordable Care Act made everyone’s insurance better, not just the people who have coverage through the Marketplace or even the 20 million people who have coverage because of the law.”

While it’s great that more Americans have insurance, it’s important to remember that insurance isn’t the means to the end of getting access to life-saving treatments. Many of these newly insured patients are being forced to fail first, thanks to insurance policies that create roadblocks for patients. Our goal shouldn’t be to reduce the number of uninsured — it should be to increase the number of people that get access to the right treatment.

Marathon 96

Our friend Don Wright is moving closer toward accomplishing his goal of running in at least 100 marathons. His personal feat is even more remarkable when you consider that the 75 year-old has run all 95 marathons to-date with cancer, while undergoing treatment.

Don’s entered the Fargo Marathon, on Saturday, May 21st. This will be his 96th marathon with cancer, while on active treatment, putting Don on the verge of achieving his goal to run in at least 100 marathons since his diagnosis 13 years ago. In December 2012, Don joined an elite group of runners who have completed at least one marathon in all fifty states.

In its 12th year, the 2016 Fargo Marathon 26.2 mile course is unique because the race starts from inside the Fargodome. That means approximately 15,000+ cheering fans and spectators will be there to urge on the marathoners.

“This is the third time I will run this race,” says Don. “I ran here in 2014 and back in 2006. It’s one of my favorites because the course is flat! Also, the tree-lined streets of north Fargo are beautiful this time of year and quite picturesque. We love running through the neighborhoods while everyone watches the parade. And we do venture into Moorhead in Minnesota, so this is a two-state race, making it a truly one-of-a-kind experience.”

State Spotlight: Fail First in Kansas

Speaking of insurance, Kansas lawmakers have passed step therapy legislation that forces Medicaid patients to fail first before getting access to the right treatment. .

Mental health advocates in the Sunflower State are taking the lead in opposing the bill that will harm patients. Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, recently explained how the bill prevents each patient from getting access to the right treatment.

“Individuals and their prescribers need to have the greatest degree of flexibility to ensure a good match for patients,” he said. “We don’t know as much about how the brain responds to this whole kind of cadre of medications … as we do with cardiac and other kinds of medications.”

Let’s hope Governor Sam Brownback vetoes the bill, which is expected to be signed on Monday.

Zika Research Slowed by Conference Committee

Washington sausage-making has put the brakes on funding research for the Zika virus.

Top Senate and House negotiators announced this week plans to adopt a formal conference committee to resolve differences between proposals offered by lawmakers and the White House, according to Morning Consult. By formally requesting a conference committee, it effectively stops any approval until well into the summer.

Lawmakers are debating how much money to allocate for Zika virus research. This week, the Senate passed legislation for $1.1 billion dollars to fight the Zika virus, while the House is moving forward with a proposal of just $622 million.

“That’s just not going to cut it and if we don’t spend more than that on the front end,” Sen. Marco Rubio said, blasting the House bill. “I think we’re going to spend a lot more later on because the problem is certainly not going to go away.”

In addition to the amount of money, House leaders want to limit the funding to September 2016, while the Senate would allow funding to be spent until the end of the 2017 Fiscal Year.

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