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August Policy Roundup

Policy

1. HealthyWomen Encourages Vaccinations Among Pregnant Women

HealthyWomen is a proud co-author of a new white paper, "Improving Maternal Immunization Status: Working Toward Solutions to the Policy, Data, and Implementation Challenges Driving Suboptimal U.S. Maternal Vaccination Rates." Though the benefits and safety of vaccines among pregnant women are well-documented, many pregnant women don't get recommended vaccines for preventable diseases such as the flu or whooping cough. The white paper helps explain why vaccination rates remain low, leaving pregnant women and their babies unprotected against numerous preventable diseases.

2. Covid-19 Vaccines Are Recommended for Pregnant Women

This month, the CDC recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated against Covid-19, following data showing Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women. A small study published this month also suggests that breastmilk of vaccinated women contains Covid-19 antibodies, which may offer protection to breastfeeding babies of vaccinated mothers.

3. HealthyWomen Issues a Statement on Pneumococcal Vaccines

HealthyWomen issued a statement calling for the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to make a recommendation for the next class of pneumococcal vaccines as soon as possible. After a year and a half of intense focus on lung health because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that new vaccines against pneumonia, once approved, be made available to the public as quickly as possible. Read our full statement here.

4. Our Survey on Barriers to Contraception Is Live

HealthyWomen is proud to participate in a coalition of organizations dedicated to ensuring access to no-cost contraception. Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) established Women's Preventive Services Guidelines that require nearly all commercial health plans and Medicaid to cover a wide range of female-controlled prescription birth control options without patient costs, such as co-payments or deductibles, many women encounter challenges getting insurance coverage for medically appropriate birth control.

To better understand the challenges that patients and healthcare providers face when trying to access no-cost contraception, Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH), the professional community for Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and other women's health providers, is conducting a survey. If you provide reproductive healthcare services, please complete the survey to help shed light on these important issues.

5. A New Survey Shows That Menopause Symptoms May Begin Sooner Than Previously Thought

Many women experience menopause symptoms earlier than previously recognized, sometimes well before they actually reach menopause, according to a recent study published in Menopause, the Journal of the North American Menopause Association. Researchers surveyed approximately 1,500 women ages 35 to 55 and found that 40% had experienced symptoms commonly associated with menopause — such as hot flashes and night sweats — while still getting regular periods. The findings may help women and their healthcare providers recognize symptoms as part of a longer menopausal process and address them accordingly.

6. At Least 2.5 Million People Got Health Insurance During Special Enrollment Period

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2.5 million people had enrolled in health insurance via Healthcare.gov and the state health insurance marketplaces as of August 10, 2021. The Biden Administration had implemented a special enrollment period from February 15 to August 15, 2021. Consumers saved an average of $40 per month on coverage as a result of expanded tax credits through the American Rescue Plan and more than one-third found coverage for $10 or less per month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The next open enrollment begins on November 1, though you can sign up any time if you have a major life event such as a job or family status change.

7. Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Screening Worsened During the Pandemic

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many women paused routine screenings, including breast cancer screening. A new research paper shows that the rate of screening mammography in 2020 was 60% of the rate in 2019 in one California hospital. Even after stay-at-home orders were lifted in California, screening rates remained lower than in pre-pandemic times. Screening among women of color was lower than among white women, with Black women having the lowest mammography rate. Another recent study showed that Black women have a 28% higher likelihood of dying from nonmetastatic triple-negative breast cancer than white women, underscoring the importance of early detection.

8. Female Scientists Are Cited Less Often Than Male Counterparts

Women serve as primary or senior authors on just one-quarter to one-third of scientific studies published in five of the most prestigious medical journals. Yet even in those high-impact publications, women's contributions are cited less often, according to new analysis. Researchers found that original research with a female lead and senior authors were cited half as frequently as those authored by men.

Another study showed that women made significant gains in representation as physicians, surgeons, dentists and pharmacists. By 2019, the number of women had increased in all three professions compared to 15 years prior, while the proportion of white men decreased.

9. Transgender Rights Play Out in the States

This month, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner declared that gender-affirming surgery on transgender minors could constitute child abuse under Texas law. Gender-affirming care — such as puberty blockers, hormones or surgery — helps transgender people match their physical body to their gender identity.

On the other end of the spectrum, the school board in Loudoun County, Virginia, voted to approve a policy expanding transgender students' rights. The new policy requires teachers to use students' preferred pronouns and allows transgender students to use facilities and participate in sports and activities according to their gender identity. The new policy complies with Virginia state law, which the school board in Newport News, Virginia, recently voted to ignore.

These state-level developments come on the heels of a new report by the Center for American Progress that shows that nearly half of transgender people have experienced mistreatment by medical providers, and 46% have been denied insurance coverage for gender-affirming care. Additionally, 28% of respondents reported having postponed or avoided medical care for fear of discrimination.

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