Mental Health and the Patient Point of View:
More High-Quality Stories Needed

I am thrilled that later today, Martha Roberts’ post on her own experience taking medication for mental illness, will run here. I first came across her post through a tweet from Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma. It’s nice to know that he has not oversimplified the “bad pharma” argument into this meme: all drugs are inevitably bad for mental illness, overused, and inappropriate. Yes, there are huge problems with selective publishing of clinical trials data, withholding negative drug trials, and more. But mental health and mental illness are a lot more nuanced than a simple meme.

A lot more ink needs to be written about mental illnesses from the patient point of view, that show the real-life hurdles of people unfairly stigmatized, unemployed, or under-employed. I hope that this upcoming post (I’ll link to it here) is the first of many more.

If you have something to say about this, use the comments, or if you have a longer contribution, email me at patientpov “at” gmail dot com.

No More Struggling to Find Co-Pay Dollars for Contraception!

Written by Keely Monroe, Raising Women’s Voices

This blog was originally posted for the What’s in it for Women? campaign. To learn more about the campaign and the wins women get from the new health law, please visit

Today is a day for millions of women like me to celebrate!

For the first time, our country is requiring all new health insurance plans to cover contraception – and do it without charging us co-pays and deductibles. It’s all because of the women’s preventive services provision of the new health care law (the Affordable Care Act). 

This is a big deal for me as a young woman who uses birth control because it hasn’t been the right time for me to become a mom. As a young professional living in Washington, DC, where the cost of living is high, I have found that the monthly co-pays for my contraceptives take a real bite out of my budget.

I am relieved and thankful that starting today, the health care law is going to begin to change all that for me and for all those women struggling to find co-pay dollars for care we can’t do without!

This new requirement will apply to coverage for a wide range of contraceptive methods – including birth control pills, IUDs and even tubal ligations that are popular with women in their 30s and 40s. It also covers the contraceptive counseling visit with your doctor to figure out which is the best method for you.

When will this great new coverage requirement go into effect for you? It applies to all new health insurance plans beginning today, but will go into effect with the beginning of your new “plan year.” So, student health plans, which generally start with the new school year in late August or early September, are likely to be the first to include this benefit. Other new plans may not incorporate the change until January, which is typically the start of health plan coverage years.

What about existing health insurance plans? They will have to comply with this requirement as soon as they make enough routine policy changes to be considered “new” under the health care law. It’s estimated that could take until 2014 for some existing plans. Call your health insurer or your employer’s human resources office to find out what you will get this great new coverage.

So this is what’s in it for women: Affordable contraception, well woman visitsimportant screenings and counseling for intimate partner violencecounseling for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), breastfeeding equipment and counseling and diabetes screening when you’re pregnant.

So thanks, health care law, for helping me and millions of women to stay healthy!

Raising Women’s Voices is a national initiative working to ensure the promise of health reform is fulfilled for women and our families. It is a collaboration of three national organizations: the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Women’s Health Network and the MergerWatch Project — and state-based women’s health organizations in 21 states.


Looking for a Doctor

Guest Post by Esther Cohen

Many people I know, of every age and proclivity, are looking for a new doctor. Even if they have one already.

A good doctor’s not easy to find. We have, many of us, moved away from the kindly-ish all knowing childhood variety (mine was my Uncle Jack. A large man. No one even Wife Fayette would question his dictums. Health or otherwise). Today we inhabit another universe, where wellness is used every other sentence and Dr. Oz is on TV every single day with advice, where yoga and meditation are part of the common parlance, and many can pronounce ayurveda. What it means is another story, but still.

I’m on the search myself. Here’s what’s on my criteria list: kind, funny, non-invasive (a newish term). Not too test oriented. Talks and listens. Doesn’t make you wait for hours. Takes my insurance. Calls back in a reasonable time period. Has a receptionist who would not be mistaken for Goebels or Goering.

Last week I tried two different candidates: beautiful Indian woman and an overweight 53 year old Jewish man.

The woman, Dr. R., was in an ugly space. (So was he. Aesthetics are not a requirement, though they’d be nice. ) But Roy, the man who met me at her door, Dr. R’s yoga and breathing instructor, was one of the best looking people of all time. He looked as though he could do a quick headstand and maybe teach me too.

Dr. R. sees her patients in the dark. No lights, really. She believes the dark is meditative. I could see her enough to know she too is beautiful. She said Indians believe (she does, anyway) that from 50 on we’re on the other side. She said I could take four kinds of herbs, and coat my skin daily with sesame oil, to hold off my inevitable drying out. Oddly enough, I bought the herbs. I’m not sure why. Conditioning? She also said I should never eat broccoli for lunch. I never do, but on the Dr. R. visiting day, in mild defiance, I ate a Chinese lunch: broccoli in garlic sauce.

Then I went to Dr. P., for my eyes. Even though he’s an eye doctor, Dr. Ps office looks pretty bad. His walls are a color that isn’t a real color – beige-ish, and his paintings are part of the Day’s Inn school – ubiquitous boat on ubiquitous wave. Dr. P., though, was more or less the ideal. He seems to have maximum eye information, but he didn’t find it necessary to recite all the facts. He answered questions and asked a few. Even his receptionist seemed ok. Before handing me the requisite clipboard with questions (wouldn’t it be great if they asked a question like How Do You Feel?) she said Welcome.

I liked Dr. P. enough to ask the question I’ve asked everyone, more or less. Can you recommend an internist? Someone like you, I said. Forget it, he responded. Doesn’t exist. I guess the search continues.

I met a woman in the elevator today. A stranger. Coming from a visit from a new doctor. Someone she’d never met before. How was it? I asked.
Could have been better, she said.

WordCount Blogathon Opens Door to Unusual Patient Stories

On May 1, I joined the Word Count Blogathon, and already, I am meeting bloggers who have amazing stories to tell about the healthcare system. Among the stories that I hope to share with you are the following:

  • What happens when a deaf woman gets care in a hospital;
  • How a support group helps women have a vaginal birth after a cesarean section;
  • How a person is managing with rheumatoid arthritis;
  • What gets lost in translation when a patient does not speak English;
  • How a husband and wife face gender reassignment surgery;
  • A young woman who is starting public health school in the fall;
  • How a parent deals with mental health issues with her kids.

I am thrilled that these stories are fresh and important accounts of what transpires in our healthcare system. Some bloggers will be guest bloggers here and I will swap posts with them, other stories, I will tell.

This post is short. Writing the macular degeneration drug story took a lot of energy and I have to pace myself. Since I am aiming to post each day this month, you can expect a few stories like that each week, but certainly not every day. I am also interested in any stories that you have to tell.