Policy & Practice


Women Often Forgo Care

More women than men skip needed health care services because of cost, even when they have insurance coverage, according to a study issued by The Commonwealth Fund. About 43% of women reported having difficulty accessing health care, compared with 30% of men. Among the uninsured the problem is more pronounced with 68% of women reporting access issues, compared with 49% of men. Women are more likely than men to report not filling a prescription, not seeing a specialist when needed, and skipping medical tests or treatments, according to the report. The report data are from three surveys conducted in 2004 and 2005. “These findings show that comprehensive health care coverage that doesn't require high out-of-pocket costs is vital to ensuring that women get the care they need to be healthy,” Sara Collins, assistant vice president for the Program on the Future of Health Insurance at The Commonwealth Fund, said in a statement.

Breast, Cervical Cancer Screening

President Bush recently signed into law the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act, which will continue the screening program for low-income and uninsured women. Since 1991, the program has provide nearly 7 million cancer-screening exams to more than 2.9 million women. This year an additional 700,000 screenings are expected to be done. Through the program, women can receive clinical breast exams, mammograms, and Pap tests, as well surgical consultation, referrals to treatment, and diagnostics for those whose screening results are abnormal. “When breast cancer or cervical cancer is caught early, the survival rate is more than 90%,” President Bush said at the bill signing.

Codifying Roe v. Wade

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld federal legislation banning the so-called partial birth abortion procedure, some members of Congress introduced legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reintroduced the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which, if enacted would prohibit the government from interfering with a woman's right to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after viability in order to protect her life or health. The legislation defines viability as the stage of pregnancy when, in the medical judgment of the attending physician, there is a reasonable likelihood that the fetus can survive outside of the woman's body. “Many members of Congress say they support preserving Roe v. Wade,” Rep. Nadler said in a statement. “This bill is a binding codification of that decision. It is time for members to step up to the plate and go on record in support of legislation that will provide meaningful protection for women.”

Grading Abstinence-Only Education

Teenagers enrolled in abstinence-only education programs are about as likely to have abstained from sex as teens in a control group, according to a report evaluating federal abstinence education programs. The study, which was requested by Congress under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. The study is based on the results of a survey of more than 2,000 teens who were either assigned to an abstinence-education program or a control group. The sample includes four abstinence education programs that focus on teaching abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage. Surveys from the teens involved in the study revealed that about 49% remained abstinent always regardless of whether they were enrolled in a program, and 56% of teens in a program were abstinent in the last 12 months, compared with 55% of teens in the control group. The researchers found similar rates among the two groups when they asked about sex using a condom, age at first intercourse, and number of sexual partners.

Juries Side With MDs

Contrary to popular belief, juries in malpractice cases usually sympathize more with physicians and less with their patients, according to a law professor who performed an extensive review of studies involving malpractice cases from 1989 to 2006. University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law professor Philip Peters found that plaintiffs rarely win weak cases, although they have more success in cases viewed as a “toss-up” and better outcomes in cases with strong evidence of medical negligence. Peters, whose study appeared in the May edition of the Michigan Law Review, said that several factors systemically favor medical defendants in the courtroom, including the defendant's superior resources, physicians' social standing, social norms against “profiting” by injury, and the jury's willingness to give physicians the benefit of the doubt when evidence conflicts.

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