Saturday, July 26, 2014

WTF?: Advocates Push for Medicaid Breastfeeding Support Coverage


The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force is pushing for an initiative to have Medicaid cover medical lactation support services.

By Jasmin Singh

Nothing seems more natural than for a mother to breastfeed her baby. But Anne-Marie Meyer found it’s not always the case.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my entire life,” said Meyer, who lives in Carrboro.
When both of Meyer’s daughters were born, they each had health problems and had a hard time eating. But Meyer persisted, with the help of her lactation consultant, Ellen Chetwynd.
Lactation consultants provide support and education for women who struggle with breastfeeding. Meyer said that without Chetwynd’s help, “I would have failed.”
Now the legislative Child Fatality Task Force would like to see women covered by Medicaid get the same help Meyer got with breastfeeding. Its members are pushing for a special provision in the budget to allow the Division of Medical Assistance, which manages the state’s Medicaid program, to implement coverage for medical lactation support for women on Medicaid.
Elizabeth Hudgins, executive director of the task force, said the goal of the initiative is to save infant lives.
“Our main concern is that this proposal is estimated to save 14 to 18 infant lives this year,” she said.

What is a lactation consultant?

Chetwynd explained that lactation consultants are “the physical therapists of the breast.” Catherine Sullivan, agrees. She is a clinical instructor and director of training at the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute.
Chetwynd, left, and Sullivan, right, co-chair the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants Advocacy Committee. Chetwynd said lactation consultants are care providers whose specialty is breastfeeding moms and babies.
Ellen Chetwynd, left, and Catherine Sullivan, right, co-chair a committee under the NC Breastfeeding Coalition. Chetwynd said lactation consultants are care providers whose specialty is breastfeeding moms and babies. Photo credit: Jasmin Singh
“They know how the breast works, how it functions, how babies are supposed to be feeding,” she said.
Sullivan said lactation consultants provide more than just basic support.
“They do assessment, they do counseling and education, they work with the primary care provider if it’s a medical issue that’s outside of their scope,” she said. “They are part of that health care team for the mom.”
Meyer said if her health insurance did not cover her lactation consultants, she would not have been able to breastfeed her children.

Benefits of breastfeeding

Chetwynd, a lactation consultant, said the benefits of breastfeeding are huge.
“The nice thing about breastfeeding is that there are benefits for both mom and baby,” she said.
Chetwynd said breast milk helps strengthen the baby’s immunity by providing immune factors: “When a mother breastfeeds her baby, she’s not just giving the baby nutrition, she’s helping the baby’s immune system to understand what’s going on.”
Meyer said she saw the benefits when breastfeeding her children.
“When I was breastfeeding her, as hard as it was for me, she was doing better and I was doing better,” she said. “She never needed antibiotics; she’s bigger and very healthy.”
Breastfeeding is best initiated while a woman is still in the hospital with her baby. Image courtesy Eden Pictures, flickr creative commons
A nurse helps a newly delivered mom latch on. Breastfeeding is best initiated while a woman is still in the hospital with her baby. Image courtesy Eden Pictures, flickr creative commons
Research shows that immediate benefits include fewer ear infections, hospitalizations and upper-respiratory infections. Breastfeeding also provides long-term benefits, like decreased risk of asthma, diabetes, blood pressure and childhood obesity.
Long-term benefits for mothers include reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
According to a Child Fatality Task Force fact sheet, the estimated savings to Medicaid by covering lactation support services would be in excess of $2 million annually.

A three-pronged approach

Meyer said there are three main forms of support a woman needs to successfully breastfeed.
“There’s structural support and policy; there’s the mechanism and actually learning how to do it; and then there’s emotional support of the people around you, like the husband, the partner, friends, society,” she said.
Meyer said there’s nothing like the support she got from her lactation consultants.
“Pediatricians don’t know how to do this, OB-GYNs don’t know how to do this,” she said. “It’s a very specialized body of knowledge that is held by lactation consultants, and it’s critical for some women to have that or else they would have failed.”

Saving money and saving lives

The breastfeeding initiative is “special” said Tom Vitaglione, a analyst for NC Child, an advocacy group.
“It’s rare that something like this would happen, where you save lives and save money,” he said.
But despite the obvious benefits, Vitaglione said, the process of approval has taken longer than the task force thought.
“For people who are not used to this and haven’t been looking at it for a long time, it takes awhile to really generate some good, positive thoughts about it,” he said.
Meyer said she’s glad she was able to breastfeed her children and hopes other women get the support they need to start.
“It’s probably been one of the most rewarding things,” she said.
An earlier version of this story implied Chetwynd and Sullivan are committee co-chairs of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants Advocacy Committee.

US regulators close small bank in Illinois


Created: 07/26/2014 4:21 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Regulators have closed a small lender in Illinois, bringing U.S. bank failures this year to 14 after 24 closures in all of 2013.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Friday that it has taken over GreenChoice Bank FSB, based in Chicago.
The bank, which operated three branches, had about $72.9 million in assets and $71 million in deposits as of March 31.
Providence Bank LLC, based in South Holland, Illinois, has agreed to assume all of the failed bank's deposits.
The FDIC said that Providence Bank also agreed to buy roughly $67.7 million of GreenChoice Bank's assets.
The failure of GreenChoice Bank is expected to cost the deposit-insurance fund $14.2 million.
U.S. bank failures have been declining since they peaked in 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession.
Only three banks went under in 2007. That jumped to 25 in 2008, after the financial meltdown, and ballooned to 140 in 2009.
In 2010, regulators seized 157 banks, the most in any year since the savings and loan crisis two decades ago. The FDIC has said 2010 likely was the high-water mark for bank failures from the recession. They declined to 92 in 2011 and fell to 51 in 2012.
In a strong economy, about four or five banks close annually.
From 2008 through 2011, bank failures cost the deposit insurance fund an estimated $88 billion, and the fund fell into the red in 2009. With failures slowing, the fund's balance turned positive in the second quarter of 2011.The fund had a $48.9 billion balance as of March 31.
The FDIC has said it expects bank failures from 2012 through 2016 will cost the fund $10 billion.

Unions Backing Fast Food Workers Threaten Civil Disobedience Over Pay Raises Demands


Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

Protesters gather outside of the annual shareholders meeting at McDonald's Corporation headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., demonstrating for higher wages and the right to unionize. / AP photo

CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they're prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers are expected to discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

About 1,300 workers will attend sessions Friday and Saturday at an expo center in Villa Park, Illinois, where they'll be asked to do "whatever it takes" to win $15-an-hour wages and a union, said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the national effort and a representative of the Service Employees International Union.
The union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests that began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a protest outside this year's McDonald's Corp. shareholder meeting that resulted in more than 130 arrests.
"We want to talk about building leadership, power and doing whatever it takes depending on what city they're in and what the moment calls for," said Fells, adding that the ramped-up actions will be "more high profile" and could include everything from civil disobedience to intensified efforts to organize workers.
"I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us," perhaps even by occupying the restaurants, said Cherri Delisline, a 27-year-old single mother from Charleston, South Carolina, who has worked at McDonald's for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour.
Delisline said she and her four girls live with her mother, but the family still has difficulty paying utilities and the mortgage while providing for her children. She said she has not been to a doctor in two years and does not get paid if she stays home sick.
"To have a livable wage, it's going to need to be $15 an hour," said Delisline. "We make the owners enough money that they have houses and cars and their kids are taken care of. Why don't (they) make sure I can be able to do the same for my kids and my family?" she said.
The campaign comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats across the country have attempted to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wages.
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour translates to about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, though many fast-food workers get far fewer hours. Obama and others have called for increasing it to $10.10.
Fast food workers say even that's not enough because most people working in the industry now are adults with children, rather than teenagers earning pocket money. The restaurant industry has argued that a $15 hourly wage could lead to business closings and job cuts.
A McDonald's spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.
But the National Restaurant Association said Thursday that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.
"Instead of demonizing an industry that opens doors for workers of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, the focus should be on finding better solutions to lift individuals out of poverty," including policies that increase education and job training, said Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice president of policy and government affairs.
Turnout for the protests has varied, but they've struck a chord at a time when the gap between the country's rich and poor has widened. Executive pay packages also are coming under greater scrutiny, including that of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson, who was given a pay package worth $9.5 million last year. Nevertheless, shareholders this year overwhelmingly voted in favor of McDonald's executive compensation practices.
Nancy Salgado of Chicago said she and her two children share a bedroom after being forced to move into an apartment with two other adults after her hours at McDonald's were cut from 40 a week to about 24.
"I don't think $15 will make me rich. ... I just want an apartment for my family and be able to have my kids in their own room, to not have to wait for the washing machine or the bathtub, and I don't want to be behind on bills if I take time off or get sick," said Salgado, who earns minimum wage after 12 years with the company.
"If we've got to stop working and shut down (restaurants) to get it, that's what we're going to do," she said.

Those Silly Anchor Babies: Teen jailed after trying to stab grandfather in "drunken rage"


A teen is facing criminal charges after he allegedly tried to stab his grandfather while under the influence of alcohol and pills.
San Benito police arrested Jeremy Barrera on an aggravated assault charge on Thursday evening.
Investigators told Action 4 News that the 18-year-old Rancho Viejo resident drove to his grandfather's house on the 100 block of Maria Street in San Benito.
Barrera allegeldy got into in verball fight with his 53-year-old grandfather and tried to stab him.
No injuries were reported but both family members and a neighbor had to subdue Barrera before police arrived at the scene.
Barrera allegedly told officers that he had been drinking and took some pills before going to his grandfather's house to confront him.
The 18-year-old appeared before San Benito Municipal Court Judge Ben Yudesis where he was issued a $20,000 dollar bond.

How Border Patrol is combating environmental obstacles in RGV


The Rio Grande Valley sector is one of the busiest corridors for illegal immigration with about 220,000 apprehensions each year.
Action 4 witnessed firsthand just what the boots on the ground are doing to tackle the problem.
Agent Joe Gutierrez is one of 3,000 Border Patrol agents permanently stationed in the Rio Grande Valley sector.
"But since big influx of people coming in, we've started detailing more agents from less busier sectors like from San Diego, Laredo, Tucson. We've been bringing them in to help us with fast operational tempo," he explained.
The Rio Grande Valley is currently the busiest sector in the nation for apprehensions and the second for drug-related arrests.
Gutierrez, who is also a Border Patrol spokesperson, said one of the biggest challenges is the environment-the winding river makes building a wall not cost-effective, and the brush makes it difficult to locate groups of undocumented immigrants crossing.
It's not uncommon to find articles of clothing are left behind by groups of people who recently crossed the river, but Gutierrez said these shirts hanging along trails are markers signaling and pointing the way for those straggling behind.
Visibility of the area is key, explained Gutierrez, and having different techniques makes all the difference in tracking undocumented immigrants.
Gutierrez said, "it shortens down response time for us to get to immigrants that are in distress or to respond to traffic."
There are several ways agents do this, "aerostats, we have ground seismic sensors, we have RVSS cameras that we use to patrol the border."
But one of the most effective is the oldest methods in the book.
Agents tow tires behind their vehicles to leave a clean undisturbed path behind them, which making it easier to follow fresh footprints.
“This is something that is never going to get old, this is something we are always going to use because it’s very effective," said Gutierrez.
He added agents are posted up along the border to provide security... their other objective is to save lives.
"All the agents-we're fathers, we're mothers, we are all family-we have family here. So we see them and we want to take care of them, our basic goal is to provide their safety," said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez also told Action4 that having different resources available to agents helps cut down response times, it’s also why that the Department of Defense is utilizing equipment once used in Iraq and Afghanistan and putting it toward border security operations in the Rio Grande Valley.

Anchor Baby Policy Failure: Man wanted for murder after body found in burning truck


Authorities are asking the public’s help as a murder warrant for a man was issued after authorities found a body in a burning truck.
McAllen police said they are looking for Anthony Joe Cortina, who is linked to the death of Ryan Tyler Sewall.
Investigators issued a murder warrant for 28-year-old Cortina.
Authorities say Cortina is associated with the Texas Chicano Brotherhood Gang and is considered armed and dangerous.
Cortina has tattoos on each cheek on his face and neck.
Marie Rivera was also involved in this incident as a person of interest.
Police are still looking for Rivera at this time.
Sewall’s body was found in a truck on the 3500 block of North McColl Road early Monday morning after firefighters were called to put out the fire he was in.
It's not clear how the 26-year-old died or how the truck caught on fire but police believe he was involved some sort of issue with the owner of the truck.
Witnesses said the truck had been in the parking lot for several days.
Police are asking for any information on Cortina, and is asked to call the McAllen Police Department at 956-681-2234 or McAllen Crime Stoppers at 956-687-TIPS (956-687-8477).
If the information leads to arrest, you may be eligible for a cash reward.