The Daily Rise: Monday, July 11

Patients Rising: Voices of Value

As part of our partnership with the Omni Health Media, we’re sharing patients’ stories every quarter in WOMEN, the women’s health magazine that provides valuable insight into health issues with a focus on cancer, rheumatology, and GI health. In the latest issue, our Co-Founder and Executive Director Terry Wilcox shares Jennifer Hinkel’s story.

When Jennifer was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1998 at the age of 17, her life as she knew it came to a standstill: from her daily routine to her long-term plans, her world was transformed as she took on the fight of her life.

After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Jennifer achieved full remission, but the experience left her emotionally and physically exhausted. While the treatment had rid her of the disease, physical and emotional effects of the experience remained.

“When a person goes through cancer, that individual experiences a rift between the physical body and the spirit. Cancer is, both metaphor­ically and literally, from a scientific standpoint a betrayal by one’s own body. While the hopeful spirit can sustain the body through grueling treatment and recovery, often the spirit is left exhausted, and the person is left an emotional wreck,” Jennifer says. “I struggled with coming to terms with this experience, with anxiety over whether the cancer would come back, and with an enormous fear that, much like my cancer diagnosis, another unex­pected disaster could be just around the corner.”

It was in the wake of her recovery that Jennifer’s family took a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands. Although this wasn’t her first time sailing, it was a transformational experience to be on the ocean and feel the synchronicity of wind, water, and sails.

“The moment when the sails are raised and the engine is turned off, when you’re propelled across the waves by only the silent wind, is pure magic, and it sweeps up your soul and your sense of being,” she says.

Read the entire piece at the magazine WOMEN.

More, Less Healthy Enrollees

Being uninsured is good for your health. OK — so maybe we’re confusing correlation and causation.

A new analysis by Health Affairs reveals that the overall health of the uninsured improved in 2014, while the health of those with health insurance declined. Since it’s unlikely that health insurance makes patients less healthy, the study reveals the broader effects of the health insurance mandate. More patients with health care needs have obtained coverage, while a segment of  the population — predominantly young, healthier Americans — pay the fine and forgo care.

“Our analysis suggests that people newly taking up coverage in 2014 were less healthy than the broader uninsured population in the previous year, before the implementation of the ACA’s insurance expansion provisions,” the report concludes.

From 2013 to 2014, there were 5.7 million fewer uninsured Americans. That’s great — as long as those patients are now able to access quality care and the treatments that are right for them. What good is health insurance that forces patients to fail first or denies them the treatments prescribed by their doctors? We can’t focus only on enrolling more people in health insurance. We must work to improve the quality of care.

Justice Dept. Reviews Aetna Anti-Trust Case

The Justice Department is taking a closer look at a proposed insurance merger.

Aetna Inc. is seeking anti-trust approval for its $37 billion takeover of Humana, Inc. Bloomberg reports that the Justice Department’s third-in-command, Bill Baer, is among the officials involved in the “top-level gathering that signals the review is entering a final, make-or-break stage.”

We’re seeing more insurance consolidation. Anthem and Cigna are pursuing their own $48 billion merger. According to Bloomberg, “One of regulators’ concerns in the Aetna-Humana deal is the market for private health plans for the elderly, known as Medicare Advantage. Humana’s big position in the fast-growing Medicare Advantage market is a key piece of its appeal to Aetna. Combined, Aetna and Humana would be the largest seller of those plans. Anthem and Cigna, by contrast, are big players in the market for employer-provided health plans.”

Insurance consolidation should worry patients, who benefit from competition. Patients suffer when big insurance monopolies are able to adopt cost-cutting measures that restrict access to innovation.

Race & Breast Cancer

African American women are at a greater risk of dying of breast cancer. Researchers want to know why.

The New York Times reports that the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health are investing $12 million in a nationwide study of more than 20,000 black women with breast cancer. By investigating genetics, biological factors and lifestyle factors, researchers hope to gain insight into why African American women are at greater risk from the disease.

“This effort is about making sure that all Americans — no matter their background — reap the same benefits from the promising advances of precision medicine,” Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, the acting director of the N.C.I., said, according to the New York Times. “The exciting new approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment ring hollow unless we can effectively narrow the gap of cancer disparities, and this new research initiative will help us do that.”

Historically, black women have been at a lower risk of breast cancer. That changed last year, when — for the first time — “the rate of breast cancer among black women matched that of white women.”

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