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Deb Gordon

Deborah D. Gordon has spent her career trying to level the playing field for healthcare consumers. She is co-founder of Umbra Health Advocacy, a marketplace for patient advocacy services, and co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, the premiere membership organization for independent advocates. She is the author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money," based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Deb previously spent more than two decades in healthcare leadership roles, including chief marketing officer for a Massachusetts health plan and CEO of a health technology company. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and a Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree. Her contributions have appeared in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, The Hill and Managed Care Magazine. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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September Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. HealthyWomen is raising awareness about long Covid

In a recent op-ed published in The Hill, HealthyWomen Senior Policy Advisor Martha Nolan wrote about the connection between chronic pain and long Covid. An estimated one in five people with Covid-19 experience lingering symptoms, and approximately 16 million American adults have long Covid. Nolan urged Congress to pass two pieces of legislation: the TREAT Long Covid Act, to improve access to medical care by funding long Covid clinics, and the CARE for Long Covid Act, which would advance research into and education about long Covid. These bills will help millions of Americans get the care they need for long Covid and get the recognition and validation that their condition is real.

HealthyWomen is also sponsoring a two-part series of WomenTalk talk shows about long Covid. Monica Mallampalli, Ph.D., HealthyWomen Senior Scientific Advisor, moderated the discussions, which included pain management expert Don L. Goldenberg, M.D., of Practical Pain Management and Leslie Stullken, a woman who has been living with long Covid for more than a year. The sessions discussed steps women can take to manage life as long haulers with chronic pain symptoms.

2. Covid-19 booster shots have been shown safe in pregnant and lactating women

A large study published this month in JAMA Network Open showed Covid-19 booster shots — a third dose after the initial two doses — are well tolerated and safe in pregnant and lactating women. Very few study participants reported concerning side effects, though pregnant women were more likely to report local symptoms, such as a sore arm, than participants who were not pregnant or lactating. These findings are consistent with prior studies confirming that Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, but this analysis focused specifically on booster shots.

3. Adults should routinely get screened for anxiety according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Earlier this month, the United States Preventive Services Task Force announced its new recommendation that healthcare providers screen all adults under age 65 for anxiety. The recommendations are based on a review the task force took up before the Covid-19 pandemic, but anxiety has since surged, reaching 28% in July 2022. Women are more than twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder. Screening for anxiety can be done with a simple questionnaire, which can be administered by a primary care provider. The task force is accepting public comments on the recommendations through October 17, 2022.

A new survey of more than 66,000 women worldwide showed that stress, anxiety, worry, sadness and anger among women are at a 10-year high. This survey showed that 43% of women surveyed said they experienced worry in 2021 and 41% reported feeling stress. These figures are up 3% over 2020 levels. Feelings of sadness, reported by just under one-third of women, rose by 6% compared to 2020.

4. HealthyWomen stands with the All Copays Count Coalition to count all copays toward deductibles

HealthyWomen is a proud member of the All Copays Count Coalition, a group of patient advocates and representatives that advocates for all copayments to count toward patient health insurance deductibles. Currently, when a drug manufacturer offers copayment assistance to help patients afford their medications, insurers don’t always count those copayments toward the patient’s deductible. That can make patients’ costs go up because it takes longer for patients to meet their deductible. Before meeting a deductible, the patient has to pay for all their care. After they meet the deductible, they pay only their share (such as a copayment) but the insurer pays for most of the cost. Advocates are trying to encourage new policies that prevent insurers from excluding copayment assistance amounts from the copayment accumulators, though defenders of current rules argue that copayment coupons allow drug companies to raise prices.

5. The Biden administration announced $1.5 billion in funds to support opioid overdose response and recovery

This month, the Biden administration announced that it would distribute $1.5 billion to states and territories, including tribal lands, to address opioid overdoses and support recovery. The funds will be distributed through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response and Tribal Opioid Response grant programs. Grant money will be allocated to expanding treatment and prevention services in rural areas and to strengthen law enforcement.

6. CDC data show that sexually transmitted infections rose sharply in 2021

The CDC recently released new data on the 2021 rates of sexually transmitted infections. There were 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2021. Women were more likely than men to report chlamydia infections, and men were more likely than women to report gonorrhea and syphilis infections. These data are considered preliminary.

7. Pneumonia patients taking heavy-duty antibiotics had higher death rates than patients on regular antibiotics, a new study shows

Japanese researchers published a study this month showing that standard antibiotic therapy may be better than broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy for patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). The study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, looked at the impact of broad-spectrum antibiotics on patients with low risk of drug-resistant infections. The 30-day death rate for people on broad-spectrum antibiotics was 13.8%, compared with 3.9% in patients on regular antibiotics — a more than threefold increase in death. Results suggest that these lower-risk patients do not need broad-spectrum antibiotics and may actually be harmed by taking them.

8. Using frozen embryos in IVF has been shown to be associated with higher risk of blood pressure disorders in pregnancy, according to new research

A study published this month in the journal Hypertension found that women who use frozen embryos during in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatment have a higher risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy. In the study 4.5 million women in Norway, 7.4% had hypertensive disorders, including preeclampsia, compared with 5.6% of women who used fresh embryos and 4.3% of women who got pregnant without IVF. While these rates are low, the difference between groups is significant.

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