Friday, July 27, 2007

Guess What I Did Last Night!

Hey, get your minds out of the gutter people.

Ok, fine…(sigh) Guess what I did before that.

I officially registered for my fall classes at California State University Northridge. I have two honest to goddess, real journalism classes, an anthropology class on women’s roles in ancient to modern societies and a class on comparative art studies. Can you tell I’m putting off the science and math requirements again? (ah-hem) Next semester. I promise.

While it was exciting to finally register for classes at the big kid’s school, the thrill was tempered by the constantly running calculator in my head. How much of this will my student loans cover? How much are the books going to cost? How much is the parking pass going to be for the semester? College is an expensive endeavor at any age, and I would say, a bit more precarious when it’s just little ole’ you paying the bills. I’ve long since passed the time where my parents will be helping out with this sort of thing.

One of the things I have been looking forward to as a student on a state campus, is access to the student health facilities. As a registered college kid, I can get lower cost health care on campus. As far as I can tell, this includes nifty things like eye exams, prescriptions, minor doctor’s visits and the like. I even heard something about massage appointments. I will definitely be looking into that! I was also under the impression that young women could get low cost, discreetly handled birth control pills through the health center should they want to keep the information that they're sexually active to themselves…or at least, not broadcast it to their parents. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Back in 2005, President Bush pushed through Congress and signed a complex budget bill called the Deficit Reduction Act into law. The goal of this nifty bit o’ legislation was to reduce spending on federal programs by $39 billion. Most of this money , of course, is coming from subsidized student loans and Medicaid. One of the effects of this bit of accounting acrobatics was to create a disincentive for drug companies to offer school discounts. The result is that birth control pills, which were once available to young women on campus for about $15 per month, have sky-rocketed to upwards of $50 per month. When you’re trying to pay for $150 text books and eat a decent meal every now and again that adds up.

The Wall Street Journal Online ran an article about this on July 25th. They reported that many students are having to switch to a generic pill (where available) or tell their parents and try to get it covered in their family health plan. Neither of these are terrific options. Once your body is used to a certain dose of hormones, it’s not a great idea to start fiddling around with it by taking a different pill that may have higher levers of hormones. There is also the issue of remembering to take the thing. Young women who were on the Nuva Ring or patch may forget to take their pill if they have had to switch. You have to get into the habit of taking them. Forget once or twice and it’s enough to cause an unwanted pregnancy.

I won’t even go into the issues with having to tell your father you need your birth control pills to be covered on his insurance. Not a conversation I would have wanted to have at the age of 18 with my dad. Ugh.

“Susan Maly, a 22-year-old student at the University of Iowa, says she struggled
with switching pills recently. When she went to her college health center to get
a refill on her Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo prescription a few months ago, she was
distressed to find out that it had gone up to $54 from about $18. Starting this
month, she has switched to a cheaper generic pill that has higher levels of
estrogen than the Lo brand.
"That was an issue for me," says Ms. Maly, but she says she will see how things work out for a couple of months. Initially, she says she felt some heartburn side effects from the new pill, but that has since gone away. She finds the dramatic price increase "unfair" to women who have come to rely on birth control, and feel comfortable with the brand they are on.
"This is the one thing that many females on campus are getting from student health," says Ms. Maly. "It felt like we were a target."

I think I would feel the same way – targeted. Let’s face it; I don’t think my college boyfriend would have offered to go halvsies with me on my birth control pill. The guys can pick up their free condoms, and they’re all set. What do they need to worry about higher pill prices for anyway?

Then there is this little monetary issue for the schools:

“College health centers also say the change threatens to lessen the quality of
service they can provide, since the price increases have eaten into the profits
that they make. Pamela Houle, administrative director for the health
center at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., says the health center
now subsidizes each NuvaRing by about $4. "Previously, we were making $17 a
ring." That may mean fewer educational resources and materials down
the line
, she says.”

Oh well, I’m sure they could save a lot of money if they just stopped offering all STD testing, counseling, birth control and condom programs and just taught “abstinence only” on campus. After all, that’s what the Bush administration advocates for high school students, people up to age 29 and government subsidized programs to fight AIDS in Africa, so it must be what works the best.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This just in, "Former Bush Surgeon General Says He Was Muzzled"

Sadly, this article that popped up today at ABC News is not at all surprising. Former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona (2002 - 06), who was appointed by the Bush administration, spoke today about the administration's policies about important health issues being ignored or blocked for political reasons. (What a shock, ah-hem.) He's talking about little things like stem cell research, abstinence only education and reproductive health.Dr. Carmona is quoted in article:

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological,theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried. The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party," Carmona added.

Referring to stem cell research:

“Carmona said he was prevented from talking publicly even about the science
underpinning the research to enable the U.S. public to have a better understanding of a complicated issue. He said most of the public debate over the matter has been driven by political, ideological or theological motivations."I was blocked at every turn. I was told the decision had already been made -- stand down, don't talk about it," he said.

My favorite part of the article was at the very end. Referring to some of Carmona's predecessors including Dr. C. Everett Koop who served under President Reagan,

"Carmona said some of his predecessors told him, "We have never seen it
as partisan, as malicious, as vindictive, as mean-spirited as it is today, and
you clearly have worse than anyone's had."

I really wonder what these people in the Bush administration are thinking sometimes. Hasn't history shown, that you may be able to keep people in the dark for a while, but eventually the truth leaks out? No matter how hard these conservatives try to stifle common sense and proven scientific facts and statistics, eventually the people are going to figure it out. Take abstinence only education for example. No matter how hard they try to convince a high school full of teenagers that sex is an evil, dirty thing, most of these kids are going to come to the conclusion that their abstinence only sex ed class is full of you-know-what. Scaring people with religion is no way to prepare them for real life. Education and awareness is good. Fear and misinformation is disastrous.

This all comes as Congress is preparing to review Bush's new appointee for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger. Sounds like George has gotten tired of censoring the rational voice of science and is looking for someone who will toe the line a little better. This guy is a real gem.

According to the article at Think Progress, he was a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council and tried to block the appointment of a female pastor who was also a "practicing lesbian." What the heck is a practicing lesbian, anyway? Does she only practice lesbianism on alternate Thursdays and Sunday afternoons? More importantly, why is her sexual orientation any business of the church? He has also been quoted as saying that he sees homosexuality as “an issue not of orientation but of lifestyle.” Which is probably why he founded the Hope Springs Community Church with a commitment to curing people of their homosexuality. Nice.

This sounds like a rational, scientific guy that I feel comfortable putting in charge of informing the nation about important health issues.I can't wait to hear what he has to say about Plan B contraceptives, stem cell research and abortion. Let's just hope Congress asks the tough questions in the upcoming confirmation hearings.


Here's this morning's article at The New York Times.