Build health reform right, to save lives.

Posted May, 25 2012 by arianne

This week is National Emergency Medical Services Week, where we honor professionals in emergency services for the dedication they have for their communities. Guest blogger Maryanne Tomazic from Raising Women’s Voices writes about some of her experiences in the back of the ambulance. She has volunteered with local EMS for almost five years, and has seen how needed the health care reform law is to protecting and improving the health of our communities.

 As an Emergency Medical Technician, I feel I get a good picture of where my community’s health is the weakest. While many of the calls are accidents or unexpected, a majority of them are medical in nature, and unfortunately, avoidable.

I remember one call I had where a patient had reportedly fallen out of consciousness. When we got to the house, the woman said that she had become lethargic for a few seconds – probably because of her diabetes. We asked if she had tested her blood sugar. She said no, and that she didn’t have enough money to buy a lot of testing strips, so she tried to “ration” them when possible.

Diabetes is a serious chronic condition, and in this woman’s case, required daily monitoring of blood sugar. Because of cost, this patient wasn’t managing her health, and had gotten to a point where she needed emergency medical services.

I don’t know what type of insurance she had, or what type of care her doctor was providing, but it was clear that this woman needed help. She needed better control over her diabetes, and whatever situation she was in medically or financially, wasn’t working.

Governor Cuomo recently established a state health insurance exchange, where uninsured New Yorkers can buy quality, affordable health care plans. To make sure we get the best coverage value for our premium dollars, the exchange can act on our behalf as “active purchasers” and select only the best health care plans. They can set certain standards to make sure plans address what is important to our community.

Our state exchange could require plans to meet standards for properly managing chronic conditions. They could accept only plans that actively assist enrollees who have chronic diseases like diabetes, or that have the fewest hospital admissions due to mismanagement of health. A standard like this would encourage plans to provide support for patients, like text message reminders to test your blood sugar or more affordable testing strips.

But opportunities like this won’t likely happen unless our exchange serves as an “active purchaser”. We need to make sure our voices are heard. We want access to health care plans that address our needs – and to help promote that, we need to have an exchange that acts in the best interest of the community.

Ask any EMT, and they will be able to tell you countless of calls like this one – where a patient couldn’t afford or couldn’t get the care they needed, and ended up taking a trip to the emergency room. These are our neighbors, our families and friends, and if we have the chance to help improve the health care they get and make a difference, we need to put our full support behind it.