As back-to-school time approaches, life gets pretty busy. Keeping up with the news becomes, shall we say, not the highest priority. We’re here to help. Below are 10 current-event tidbits to know about, all of it good news from the past couple of weeks.
- Your birth control may now be free.
As of August 1, family planning—your pill, patch, IUD, even getting your tubes tied—is part of preventive care, and your health insurer has to pick up 100% of the cost for it, thanks to the nation’s health law. Some people’s health plans are exempt, so it’s not a guarantee, but over 3 million Texas women do qualify as of this month, so be sure to check with your insurer.
- Tobacco sales to kids reached an all-time low.
Preventing kids from starting smoking means they probably won’t do it as adults. Last week, news came that a public effort to keep tobacco out of kids’ hands has worked, and fewer kids are buying the stuff than at any time in history.
- Health insurers trying to rip you off had to pay back the difference.
Were you one of the people to get a check or rebate notice from your health insurance company last month? Over $167 million in health care rebates went to Texans whose insurance companies spent too much last year on overhead and profits, instead of actual health care. (This, too, is because of the health law: thanks, Obamacare!)
- Texas no longer has the highest rate of uninsured children.
Every summer, a report called “Kids Count” looks at how children in different states are doing. Although Texas kids always lag behind, this time they are doing better in a couple of ways. For over a decade, Texas was the state with the most kids unable to see a doctor in a doctor’s office when they need to. Then some state leaders started to get more serious about covering kids, and now 200,000 formerly uninsured children have health care, so we no longer have that terrible distinction. There’s still a long way to go, but progress is progress.
- Fewer kids are dying, especially from car accidents.
Another thing the report found is that child and teen deaths dipped by a lot in the last decade. That’s because, back in 2001, our state and its schools put in place some new guidelines for first-time drivers, so teens would navigate the roads more safely. Within years, Texas had the country’s biggest improvement in young lives saved on the road. (And, as a mother of a child who probably will want to drive one day, allow me to add: Whew.)
- You can get your annual medical care without paying out of pocket.
Just as birth control is now covered, other free preventive care for women as of this month includes all your well-woman basics: mammograms, annual pap smears, gestational diabetes screenings, tests for HIV, counseling about domestic violence, etc. (Kids already got free preventive care and well child visits under the health law.)
- More of us are eating fresh, locally grown foods.
In just a year’s time, demand for farmers markets has spiked 10 percent. Here in Austin, groups like the Sustainable Food Center are making sure with private and public support that the good stuff at those markets are reaching everybody. At the SFC Farmers Market East, they not only accept food stamps and WIC—they honor them with double value on purchases of fruits and vegetables.
- Breastfeeding supports, like those costly pumps, got new support.
This, too, is related to the preventive care covered for women, as of August. Many new parents have sticker shock at the price of a breast pump, or renting one from a hospital. Now insurance companies will cover those costs, as well as other services for new nursing moms, under the health law.
- More Texas kids are finishing high school.
Again, this is one of those areas where Texas still has a long way to go, but you’ve got to embrace the progress. Schools and the state have made real efforts to connect students with caring adults and other supports that keep them in school. The result is state graduation rates reached an all-time high.
- We have an opportunity to save 10,000 lives a year.
Governor Perry acts like he single-handedly gets to decide whether Texans get benefits from the nation’s health law, but actually important decisions will be made later by the legislature. That’s especially good news when it comes to Medicaid, which would provide security and better health to more families if the state acts on the nation’s health law. Studies that just came out from Harvard University, cited by the Texas Well and Healthy Campaign I work with, found that Medicaid not only makes people’s lives better—it has life-or-death importance for many of them. In Texas, we still have a chance to make a huge difference, saving as many as 10,000 lives a year.
What do these 10 good-news items have in common? All of them relate in one way or another to people in office making good choices, somewhere along the way, for families or kids. If you can’t keep up with the news, that’s OK. But this is a reminder not to get too busy to vote. Clearly, this stuff matters.
Lastly, more than half of the items above come from just one law, the Affordable Care Act. It could still get rolled back, and that means some of this good news would go away, too. Check out this cartoon to get an idea of what is at stake:
Now you’re all caught up. Hope it helps. We now return you to your regularly scheduled, hectic life.
Written by: Christine Sinatra