Obama, Romney, and Women’s Healthcare

November 3, 2012 by  
Filed under ACA, Blog, Cancer, Front Page, Iowa, Slideshow, Take Action, Women

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Karen Nichols and son, Jack, celebrating life without cancer. Photo: Courtesy Karen Nichols

Karen Nichols and son, Jack, celebrating life — cancer free, thanks to Obamacare. Photo: Courtesy Karen Nichols

In this election, arguments about women’s healthcare have often focused on abortion and contraception coverage. While I agree these are important issues, I would like to share my views from the perspective of a female cancer patient. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. “Obamacare,” requires insurance companies to cover such preventative services as breast cancer mammography screenings every one to two years for women over 40, breast cancer chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk, and annual screenings for cervical cancer. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have pledged to repeal Obamacare, meaning many women could lose these important benefits from their paid insurance plans.

Even worse is the Republican plan, or lack thereof, for the many women currently without coverage. When money is tight, women are often the family members who go uncovered because we are often charged as much as three times the insurance rates of men (a problem Obamacare resolves as of 2014). I know many hard-working women — single and married — who are self-employed or work jobs that offer no insurance coverage and who can’t afford to pay for coverage themselves. Many married women whose spouses have good health insurance policies still go uncovered because of the high cost of adding family coverage. Obamacare will make more options available to ALL women when the program goes into full force in 2014. But meanwhile, women without coverage need Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood of Eastern Iowa has been awarded funds by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to offer free breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings to qualified women between the ages 40 and 64. Planned Parenthood is pretty much the only way a woman in Iowa City and in other towns across eastern Iowa can get a mammogram if she doesn’t have insurance and can’t afford the $450 cost of the screening (not to mention the cost of the doctor’s visit; the full cost of my annual physical this year was around $1,000). What does Mr. Romney think about this essential healthcare service for women? “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that,” he said.

For me, these issues are personal. In August, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because my cancer was caught early, my prognosis is excellent. It is not an exaggeration to say that my “Obamacare mammogram” may have saved my life. If the mammogram had not been covered as part of my annual exam, I would not have been able to afford to have one. Obamacare also ensures that I don’t have to worry about lifetime caps on insurance coverage or being dropped by my insurance company. It gives me the power to shop around for affordable insurance premiums without being rejected because of a pre-existing condition. And because my coverage is more secure, I don’t have to worry about saddling my family with insurmountable debt should my condition worsen. No family should go bankrupt just because one family member happens to get sick.

One out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Yet when breast cancer is detected in the early, localized stages, the five-year survival rate is 98%. The evidence of my cancer was so small that I would not have discovered it with a self-exam until the cancer was much more life threatening. Access to mammograms and other preventative cancer screenings is crucial, and Barack Obama has pledged to maintain access to these services for ALL women. As you mark your ballot in this election, the choice you make for president could save the lives of the women you love.

Karen Nichols

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Karen Nichols is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Iowa City with her husband, Tom Lindsey, and their five-year-old son, Jackson.

Earthquakes, Tornados, Floods, Fire and Hurricanes: When Natural Disasters Hit Home

August 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Disaster, Earthquake, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tornado

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When nature gets violent, the costs of repair can be staggering. Photo: Courtesy State Archives Of Florida, Florida Memory

When nature gets violent, the costs of repair can be staggering. Photo: Courtesy State Archives Of Florida, Florida Memory

Some of the largest cities in the world have been built in areas that sooner or later get hit by natural disasters of incredible magnitude. In the U.S., for example, Los Angeles, along with much of the rest of California, sits astride a massive fault line. Several eastern U.S. sea port cities are in prime hurricane country, and a fair portion of the Midwest is plagued by tornadoes.

But as dangerous as these areas can be, people still call them home despite the high cost of destruction. Below are a few examples of past natural disasters and their related costs:

  • The 1994 earthquake that rocked Los Angeles killed 61 people, doing $64 billion in damage.
  • Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing floods took 1,322 lives and cost $144 billion.
  • The deadly tornado that flattened much of Joplin, Mo., in May of 2011, killed 158 people and is estimated to have caused up to $3 billion worth of damage.

Assessing the cost of natural disasters

When disaster strikes, the cost in terms of lives and dollars can be difficult to grasp. Homeowners often are hit hard when it comes time to replace and rebuild. Some of the most common repairs after a natural disaster include:

  • The roof. From asphalt to tiles, the cost of roof repair varies dramatically depending on the severity of the damage — anywhere from $2,000 to $60,000, or more.
  • The windows. Replacement windows cost a minimum of $100-$200 per window and more for windows designed to withstand high winds for the next time around. It’s not unusual to pay $5,000 to $40,000 for a complete job.
  • The walls. Skimping on purchasing wind-resistant new siding seems like a great money-saver, but if most of your siding flies off in a storm, you might pay between $3,500 and $20,000 to completely reside the house.
  • The foundation. Floods turn everything into mud, including the once-stable base your foundation rests on. Tricky, time-consuming foundation repairs can cost between $8,000 and $40,000 and are not always covered by insurance. A flooded basement could be another $500 to $10,000 to pump out, clean up and repair.
  • The insurance. Disaster-prone areas usually require residents to carry insurance for certain so-called acts of God. It’s good when calamity strikes, but the more often your area is hit, the more those costs usually rise.

Of course, no one can put a price tag on the lives of loved ones, pets, family heirlooms, photographs and precious mementos, and those are the best reasons of all to be as prepared as you can be.

Karl Fendelander

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home)

Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West. He often dreams of flipping houses, from replacing windows to custom siding, someday he’ll do it all.