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New Survey of Employer Health Benefits
Annual premiums for families with employer-sponsored health coverage rose 5% this year to $12,680, but coverage is becoming less comprehensive, according to the annual employer health benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.
Although premium increases were comparable to last year, they have doubled since 1999, still outpacing wages and general inflation, which rose 34% and 29%, respectively, according to the survey. Some 18% of covered workers are in health plans with deductibles of at least $1,000 a year, compared with 12% of workers in 2007. This is partly due to the growth of health savings accounts and other consumer-directed health plans, the foundation said.


Bill Mandates Coverage for Minimum Hospital Stay
The House passed legislation last week by a vote of 421-2 that would offer protections to patients who require hospitalization following treatment for breast cancer.
H.R. 758, the proposed Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007, would require health plans to provide coverage for a minimum hospital stay if a patient needs to remain in the hospital following a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or lymph node dissection.

"The last thing any woman should be doing at that time is fighting with her insurance company," Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn., pictured), the bill's lead sponsor, said in a floor statement.

It is unclear when the Senate will take up the measure and whether it will consider H.R. 758 or a Senate version of the bill (S. 459) sponsored by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)


Consumers Cut Health Spending, As Economic Downturn Takes Toll

By Vanessa Fuhrmans

"As the credit crunch threatens to throw the economy into a deep slump, Americans are already cutting back on health care, a sector once thought to be invulnerable to recession. Spending on everything from doctors' appointments to preventive tests to prescription drugs is under pressure.

The number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. fell 0.5% in the first quarter and a steeper 1.97% in the second, compared with the same periods in 2007 -- the first negative quarters in at least a decade, according to data from market researcher IMS Health. Despite an aging and growing U.S. population, the number of physician office visits also has been declining since the end of 2006. Between July 2007 and 2008, the most recent month for which data are available, visits fell 1.2%, according to IMS.

In a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners last month, 22% of 686 consumers said that economy-related woes were causing them to go to the doctor less often. About 11% said they've scaled back on prescription drugs to save money. Some of the areas being hit include hip and knee replacements, mammograms, and visits to the emergency room, according to a survey conducted by D2Hawkeye Inc., a Waltham, Mass., medical data analytics firm, on behalf of The Wall Street Journal....''

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Join our next RWV national call on October 15
With Washington focused on the Wall Street crisis, and ordinary Americans worried about troubled family finances, how important an issue will health care reform be in the November elections?  What can women do to make sure the candidates continue to pay attention to health care? Has the selection of a woman for the Republican ticket had any effect on the discussion of women's health issues? What are the election results likely to say about the potential for comprehensive national health reform in 2009?

Join us on October 15th from 2:00 to 3:30p.m. EST as RWV co-coordinator Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network moderates a lively discussion among these experts:

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, is one of the nation's leading pollsters and political strategists.  Lake and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on health care, reproductive justice and other issues. She is an expert on electing women candidates and on framing issues to women voters.

Tanya Melich is a nationally recognized political analyst, writer, and authority on women in politics. She authored the 1996 book The Republican War on Women: An Insider's Report and has written numerous articles for major publications. She co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus.

Katherine Howitt
is a policy analyst with Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization based in Boston. She researches health policy developments, and works with state groups to expand health care coverage. Before joining Community Catalyst, she conducted research with the Harvard School of Public Health on health care quality measurement and on disparities of care between racial and ethnic groups.

Please go to for a registration link.

Raising Women's Voices is nonpartisan and does not support or oppose any candidates for office.

How else could our government be spending $700 billion?

Rose Ann Demoro at The Nation writes today about how else $700 billion could be spent if, say, access to quality health care for all Americans were a priority of our government leaders.

"Consider how far a $700 billion federal outlay would go in healthcare. It would provide health insurance for 58.3 million families, or all prescription drug costs in the United States for 3.2 years, or all out-of-pocket costs for patients for 2.7 years, or all Medicaid and State Children's Health Program spending for 3.9 years."

On a slightly more optimistic note, however, Demoro considers the one advantage of the economic disaster emanating from Wall Street.

"Reduced regulations and oversight failed spectacularly on Wall Street. They'll make the healthcare crisis worse, as well. If there is an upside to the financial collapse, it is that level-headed people are once again speaking up for regulation and consumer protection are once again viewed as politically viable on all sides of the political spectrum. It's needed--both in the financial services industry and for healthcare."

Check out the full article here.