Tuesday, April 13, 2010

‘Unplanned’ pregnancies pose insurance problems for women
Submitted by Gargoyle Staff on February 12, 2010

Nearly half of all pregnancies in America are unintended.

Stefanie Kunkel, the executive director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says that she often witnesses pregnant young women who could not afford birth control when they needed it. She says it is common in college-aged women than in working women.

“It happens quite a bit in years where college students are transitioning off of their parents’ health insurance plans and moving into their own or coverage through the school that doesn’t cover contraception,” she said.

Approximately one-third of four-year colleges provide prescription drug coverage, but only half of those plans include contraception.

Flagler sophomore Laura Mcknight is insured by All State, but pays $78 plus tax every month to refill her Yaz birth control. Mcknight would like to see birth control included in all health care plans, because she knows it would prevent unwanted pregnancies for girls who are unable to pay what she does.

“A girl who went to my doctor for birth control was prescribed Yaz and stopped refilling because her mother made her pay for it by herself,” Mcknight said. “A few months later, she came back to my doctor for a pregnancy test and was pregnant.”

Twenty-seven states currently have a Contraceptive Equity law, which means insurance companies that cover prescription drugs must provide coverage for contraception. Florida is not one of them.

Jack Boyd, who has his own insurance business in St. Augustine, says that Contraceptive Equity legislation would definitely increase health insurance costs in general. He pointed out that one of the reasons Florida’s health insurance is higher than other states is because of insurers being required to cover monthly mammography for women over 40.

Boyd says the costs for birth control in every health care plan will have to come from somebody’s pocket.

“It’s just simple business,” he said. “Anytime you ask for an insurance company to pay for something, it has to generate money from somewhere, so it comes from the premiums.”

According to Medicinenet.com, the Health Insurance Association of America estimated it would cost $16 person to provide birth control coverage.

Kunkel believes that health care costs would drop if Florida passed the Contraceptive Equality law, because the cost of unintended pregnancies is more than an annual cycle of birth control.

“The cost to produce a pack of pills is estimated at about a penny to 10 cents a pack, so the vast mark-up when people are paying $50 for birth control goes to the pharmaceutical companies.”

She says insurance companies have the right to provide whatever they feel is in the best interest for the company, but thinks it would be in their favor.

“Often times that unintended pregnancy can result in higher costs for insurance companies.”

The NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation reports that insurers usually pay the medical costs of unintended pregnancy, including full-term pregnancies for $8619, miscarriages for $1038 or abortion for $416.

Boyd does not that think contraception has anything to do with pregnancy coverage. “Pregnancy is a condition that involves a person who has already conceived,” he said.

Flagler graduate Kelly Lawson is insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield, who covers most of her Lo- Estrin birth control costs. She thinks having a baby or an abortion is much more expensive than birth control.

“The complications that result from abortion can also lead to more medical attention or infertility, Lawson said. “It’s a preventive medication that also prevents insurance companies from paying more for girls going through pre-natal care and the actual delivery.”

Lawson is fresh out of college and landed her first real-world job where she had to choose a new medical plan. She observed that medical plans cost a monthly average of $200 more for females than males.

“They are getting plenty of money from us females from monthly payments to cover these costs,” she said.

Kunkel thinks that if insurance companies provide certain services to men, it would be sexual discrimination if birth control coverage was not included. She says that when drugs like Viagra are covered, birth control should be too.

“There is a vast majority of males on our legislature who may not see our correlation,” Kunkel said.

Sherry Bugnet works for the Bailey Group of St. Augustine, an affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance. From Bugnet’s standpoint, when insurance companies do not include birth control coverage, it is far from sexist.

“Condoms are not covered, so it is the opposite of sexual discrimination,” she said.

Although over half the states require insurers to provide coverage of FDA approved contraceptives, many of them allow exceptions to this rule. Several states in the US have insurance policies that allow employers or insurers to refuse to cover contraceptives on moral or religious standards.

Bugnet says the Bailey Group has a variety of carriers and the one that does not include birth control in their plan is the Catholic Church. She thinks that this issue is becoming more of a religious debate.

“I happen to work directly with the diocese and I understand the stance the Catholic Church has against it,” Bugnet said.

The NARAL Foundation reports that about half of all Americans that have insurance coverage are employed by people who choose self-insured plans, which can be exempt from contraceptive equity laws under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Kunkel and the Planned Parenthood of Florida are working on a two part bill called the Prevention First Act, which requires emergency rooms to provide rape survivors with information about emergency contraception.

“It’s not an abortion pill, but it is a high-dosage birth control pill that must be taken within 120 hours after sex,” Kunkel said.

The Prevention First Act also makes sure that every woman gets her birth control filled at pharmacies right away without discrimination.

Whether Florida will ever have the Contraceptive Equity law or not continues to be a controversial issue, but Kunkel says that it would benefit everyone including the insurance companies.

“We would be insuring that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy,” Kunkel said.
Flagler grows ‘greener’ with Hunger Initiative
Submitted by Gargoyle Staff on December 1, 2009

Chuck Riffenburg is ready to see Flagler College go “greener.”

Riffenburg is First Chair of Student Government Association’s Green Committee. Along with friend Joshua Currie, Riffenburg created the Flagler College Hunger Initiative. He is also an intern for CitySprout and is helping build the garden boxes in Lincolnville.

“The initiative is for Flagler to work cooperatively with two local religious institutions [Mission of Nombre De Dios and Temple Bet Yam Reform] to grow a large amount of food on plots of land,” Riffenburg said. “When we harvest the food, it will go towards feeding the needy and the hungry in the community.”

FCHI is going to be for the homeless, hungry and needy of St. Augustine. Riffenburg is hoping to work with the St. Francis House and is working with local churches to find out exactly where the people who need financial support are located.

“There are a lot of families near West King and Lincolnville that don’t get to eat a lot of nutritious food,” he said. “We would like to see them be able to get as much as they need.”

Other than helping less fortunate people, Riffenburg strongly desires to spread awareness about where our food is coming from. He wants people to understand that most of the conventionally grown food is a lot less nutritious than it could be and can be detrimental to their health.

He is eager to make people realize that it is unnecessary to have infinite resources to survive and that we will have to learn how to become more self-sustainable in the future.

“I would like to see people stop relying so much on the corporate structures and kind of rely on their independent communities,” Riffenburg said. “We definitely have all the means and abilities to survive and flourish, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing so.”

SGA and the administration have approved the garden plot idea and now, Riffenburg is waiting for the go ahead to start building.

The location that Riffenburg and Green Committee members chose is 74 Riberia Street. This lot is next to the Sports Management building. This is where the gardens boxes will go for the FCHI. Also on this location will be a vermicompost bin made by Environmental Science students.

Several people are already on board with FCHI, including Lincolnville’s CitySprout. He would like to see the FCHI boxes built before Christmas.

Now that CitySprout has shown success in the community, students are taking on their own green initiatives and changing our environmental surroundings for the better.
Peruvian clinic serves kids with disabilities
Submitted by Gargoyle Staff
Peruvian clinic serves kids with disabilities

Selfless doctor gives life, dreams to unfortunate youth in Peru with Hogar clinic

Four or five of the children were covered in third-degree burns. One boy was missing a leg. Some were in wheelchairs. One was missing his ears. An older girl stared off into space unable to see, but she was smiling. They all were. They were happy, dancing and singing children.

I was new to the Hogar San Francisco de Asis, a children’s clinic in Chaclacayo, Peru. Dr. Anthony Lazarra opened the Hogar in 1987 after feeling unfulfilled with his career at Emory University in Atlanta. He began with the vision of curing as many poverty stricken children as possible and continues to live out his dream.

“The most rewarding thing about life in the Hogar is caring for the children and seeing their health improve,” Lazzara said.

Patients at the Hogar range from infants to young adults in their 20s.

Illnesses in the Hogar include brain tumors, clubbed feet, asthma, malnutrition, leukemia, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, cleft lip and palate and tuberculosis. Baby Maylie suffers from severe lung problems and has to intake nutrients and milk through a tube in her nose. Jefferson, 10, suffers from severe third-degree burns all over his body and skull. Roxanna, 12, is now dead after losing her vision and spending years of suffering from a malignant tumor in her brain.

The Hogar has a full staff of day and night nurses, two cooks, a doctor and a spiritual intercessor, Theresa Stowers. Known by the children as Mami Terri, Stowers works full time at the Hogar and lives in a convent a few blocks away. She spends the majority of her time assisting the doctor.

“My mission is to pray, intercede and take care of the doctor who is taking care of the kids,” Stowers said. “People say we are a good balance.”

She prays with the children, shares her love with them and believes that she is carrying out God’s plan for her.

“Being in Peru is a mission given to me by God,” Stowers said. “I was enjoying my life in my comfort zone when God spoke to me in my heart one day. When God tells you to do something, you do it.”

Lazzara runs a tight ship to make sure the Hogar stays organized and disciplined. The children have designated cleaning days and are required to attend a Catholic mass every Saturday evening. They must pray before every meal and finish all the food on their plates. They are provided with the best care as possible with improvements being made every year. Lazarra makes sure that the children who are physically and mentally capable attend school five days a week and have a tutor to help with homework. Weekly trips are made to the pediatric hospital in Lima by the Hogar staff and volunteers for the children to receive treatment. New advancements in the Hogar include remodeled bathrooms and a hydrotherapy pool.

“I hope to see it continue to serve the children who cannot receive care elsewhere,” Lazarra said.

Stowers wants to personally help the children continue their studies once their treatment is finished at the Hogar.

“Most of these kids come from the jungle or from the provinces and have no family in Lima, so they need somewhere to live and be able to continue going to school and maybe later on to a career,” Stowers said.

She believes that the Hogar would benefit by expanding. It is made for 45 children but it houses more than 60 at times.

“The doctor, being a compassionate and kind person, never turns anyone down,” Stowers said.

Only about a fourth of the children have visitors and most children’s uneducated families mistreated them.

“The most unfortunate case a child arrived at the Hogar with is being unwanted and abandoned,” Stowers said. “I think that is worse than being malnourished.”

Angela, 6, has a father who tried to kill her twice. Twins Briget and Baleria are deaf and blind with minimal brain activity after being left in a closet for several months. Violta has burn scars covering her body that could have been treated. Her father refused immediate treatment because her burns helped them receive money begging on the streets.

Part of the Hogar’s success is due to the donation of people’s time and money. Volunteers from around the globe come to give their time and love to the children of the Hogar. Volunteer Jarred Roddinghouse, 30, from Kansas spent nearly five months at the Hogar and developed an attachment to the children.

“It has really normalized for me what it means to have a disability as it has wore off pretty quickly that the kids have problems,” Roddinghouse said. “I look at them as having individual personalities.”

He grew especially fond of five-year-old Chenya, whose mother lives a few miles away but only comes to see her once a month. Both her mother and sister are AIDS patients.

The volunteers’ main responsibility is to help with homework and entertain the children. Daily trips to the park and Chaclacayo Public Library are always on the agenda. Volunteer Suzanna Fuez, 20, from Wyoming realizes how desperate the children are for attention.

“They just need all the love they can get,” Fuez said. “The hardest thing is hearing their stories and knowing that it is out of your control.”

The older patients enjoy spending time with the volunteers because they are interested in learning English. Jamie, 22, is studying to become an English teacher after he finishes his treatment at the Hogar. Thirteen-year-old Jaquelina has been at the Hogar for six months and enjoys everything about it.

“I love playing with the children and learning from the volunteers,” Jaquelina said. “It is a beautiful place.”

Patience is required to volunteer at the Hogar as the children have plenty of energy. Volunteers must come out of their comfort zones and be open to the challenge.

Local volunteer Ever Landeo, 29, benefits personally by spending several hours a week helping at the Hogar. He believes that working with the children helps him to have peace within his soul.

“I need to better my life, because my life used to be empty,” Landeo said. “I didn’t have control of my life before.”

Volunteering isn’t only a reality check for outsiders. It leaves people hungry to help more on their own. Darragh Quinn, 27, from Ireland, spent two months at the Hogar inspiring him to begin his own clinic. He plans to build a Hogar for the children who finish their medical treatment and need to continue school.

“When it’s time for the children to leave the Hogar I say goodbye in the knowledge that they have a life of poverty ahead of them and by starting up the Hogar that can change,” Quinn said.

Avery Bedford, 20, another volunteer from Wyoming, realized that she can make a big difference easily and wants to continue volunteering after visiting the Hogar.

“You always hear about kids not having anything, but you never actually see it,” Bedford said. “You see that thing are going on here and they need our help.”

The children share their love with everyone around them, including the volunteers and staff.

“The most rewarding thing about life at the Hogar for me is to be able to bring God’s love and joy to these kids, but in return, I get so much love back,” Stowers said. “It is awesome how I and the kids share this love and joy and it overflows onto those around us.”

The Hogar is filled with illnesses, some deadly, yet it is a joyous place. It’s impossible to spend a few minutes in the Hogar without hearing laughter.

“Working here makes me realize that you don’t have to necessarily have a lot of stuff to be happy,” Roddinghouse said. “The kids have difficult diseases and conditions but they are extremely happy.”

Lazzara’s main concern for the Hogar is that there won’t be people willing to follow in his footsteps.

“I hope that the Hogar will be able to continue as it is when I am no longer able to work,” he said.

He welcomes anybody who is willing to devote any amount of time, whether for only a week or for an entire year. Each volunteer has an opportunity to positively influence the children’s lives.

Lazzara’s purpose can be summarized by an adage on a poster in a Hogar bathroom: “One voice can change a song, one life can change the world.”

Hogar Kids

Hogar Kids
Chenya, 5 yrs. old

gettting treated at Lima hospital

sign in Volunteers' bathroom