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Clinical General Healthcare Cost Healthcare Costs Healthcare Disparities Innovation Patient-Centered Care Primary Care Quality Improvement

Let Me Be Brief: Medicaid Expansion

A series of briefs by the Texas Medical Association’s Medical Student Section

By: Ammie Rupani and Alwyn Mathew

In 2019, 18% of Texans had no form of health insurance.1 650,000 Texans have lost their health insurance due to unemployment during the pandemic. The rate of uninsured Texans is staggering and has only been worsened by the pandemic. During this critical time, we must talk about Medicaid Expansion and the potential solutions for millions of people with no health insurance. As a medical student, I have seen patients defer life-saving medications such as insulin in order to afford rent or groceries. Consequently, these choices have brought such people to the Emergency Room in diabetic ketoacidosis, which could have been easily avoided with regular insulin treatments. Stories like this are far too common in Texas, and it is important to recognize such outcomes are easily preventable with improved access to health insurance coverage. How can we as students learn to treat people, when the system we are bound to  practice in is perpetuating their very diseases?

Retrieved from Texas Comptroller

Medicaid is a health insurance program managed through the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicaid is currently jointly funded by the Federal and State governments with the Federal government matching each dollar the State spends. Texas Medicaid is primarily a fee-for-service model that has poor reimbursement rates and high administrative burden that discourages physicians from accepting Medicaid in their practice. Currently, Texas Medicaid coverage is only offered to children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with severe disabilities, who also fall below a certain income threshold. For example, a single mother making minimum wage at her  full-time job is not eligible for Medicaid because she earns too much. However, she does not qualify for Federal subsidies covering some of the insurance cost because she does not earn enough. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 would help address this woman’s dilemma since Medicaid Expansion would cover all individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, amounting to $16,643 for individuals and $33,948 for a family of four. Medicaid Expansion would provide a health insurance option to an estimated 2.2 million uninsured low-wage Texas adults.2

Although the original arguments against Medicaid Expansion in Texas focused on States’ rights and limiting Federal dependence on funding, the primary opposition to this program was the Federal mandate. In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government could not mandate the Expansion of Medicaid in any State, leading to Texas and several States opting out of the program. Realizing the benefits and improvement in health outcomes, several States have since adopted the Expansion program offered through CMS, including Arkansas (2014) and Louisiana (2016). Currently, Texas spends nearly $40 billion (State and Federal funds) for the Medicaid program, with a 60-40% distribution between the Federal and State Government respectively.3 Expansion would be fiscally sound for Texas as it will reduce the strain on our State budget and draw in more Federal resources. Looking past the dollar amount, it is crucial that medical students and other healthcare professionals recognize the benefits of improved access and early medical intervention that can be achieved through Medicaid Expansion.3


TMA’s Legislative Recommendations4
  • Develop a meaningful, statewide health care coverage initiative using federal dollars to:
    • Extend meaningful coverage to low-income uninsured working-age adults, and
    • Establish a state-administered reinsurance program to reduce premiums for people enrolled in marketplace
  • Provide 12-months’ comprehensive coverage for women who lose Medicaid 60 days
  • Establish 12-months’ continuous coverage for children enrolled in Medicaid, the same benefit given to children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

  1. Accounts TCof P. Uninsured Texans. Retrieved from- https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2020/oct/uninsured.php
  2. How Many Uninsured Adults Could Be Reached If All States Expanded Medicaid? – Tables. KFF. https://kff.org/report-section/how-many-uninsured-adults-could-be-reached-if-all-states-expanded-medic aid-tables/. Published June 25, 2020.
  3. Federal and State share of Medicaid Spending, 2019, Kaiser Family Foundation- retrieved from – https://kff.org/medicaid/state-indicator/federalstate-share-of-spending/?dataView=1&currentTimeframe=0 &sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22State%22,%22sort%22:%22desc%22%7D
  4. Provide Meaningful Health Care Coverage for Uninsured Texans. Texmed. https://texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=55300.
  5. Status of state medicaid expansion decisions: Interactive Map, 2021. Retrieved from- https://kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/status-of-state-medicaid-expansion-decisions-interactive-map/
Categories
Clinical Emotion Empathy General Humanistic Psychology Opinion

Let Me Be Brief: A Proposal to Refrain From Eating Our Young

A series of briefs by the Texas Medical Association’s Medical Student Section

By: Elleana Majdinasab and Rishi Gonuguntla

Medicine has its unspoken mores, does it not? Certain specialties are notorious for their personalities, and the idea of foregoing food and sleep are deemed signs of strength and resilience. Upperclassmen advise against getting in Dr. X’s way, lest you become subject to a tailored diatribe, and you hear whispers of Dr. Y’s career-crushing evaluations. Your roommates do not bat an eye over your tears every  evening, because chances are they are no stranger to such days themselves. It doesn’t require a detective to identify that the above are the direct result of mistreatment in medical school.

Per the AAMC, mistreatment occurs when there is a show of disrespect for another person that unreasonably affects the learning process. Public humiliation and belittlement by doctors are the most common forms of mistreatment in medical school.1 The practice of aggressive “pimping,” or the act of doctors disparaging students for not knowing information, potentially in front of patients or fellow classmates, is a phenomenon too many medical students needlessly experience.2 Other examples of mistreatment include the shaming of students for asking questions and being subjected to offensive names and remarks.1 According to one 2014 study, over three-fourths of third year medical students reported being mistreated by residents, with over 10% of those responses citing recurrent mistreatment.2

Given the omnipresence of these events, one may consider whether there exists a common denominator among guilty attending physicians. Indeed, mistreatment of medical students can  occur secondary to a multitude of reasons. Physician burnout is still rampant as ever, and ironically, often occurs partly due to the same toxic culture attendings themselves experienced as budding residents.3 The doctors in question blissfully perpetuate the cycle, humiliating and pimping, justifying  their behavior with the mentality of, “I went through it back then and turned out just fine.” Thus, the vicious cycle continues. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

As medical students, we are quietly told by the older and wiser to improve our resilience – to grow tougher skin. We are advised to expect, or even welcome, microaggressions and impatience from our superiors while we work toward our lifelong dreams.4 We take deep breaths and smile through the jabs because we are fully aware of the consequences of speaking out against the deeply ingrained practice of mistreatment.4 Mistreatment in medical school matters because doctors eating their young further propagates the toxic reputation of the career’s culture while contributing to the development of many future doctors’ unhappiness.3 It is the accumulation of years of pressure, competition, and negative experiences that leads to feelings of burnout in students and physicians alike.5 Even worse, medical students act on these feelings, and they are three times more likely to commit suicide than their similar-aged peers in other educational settings in the general population.6 The hazing of medical students is in no way constructive or beneficial to anybody involved. Stress and toxicity in the learning environment prevents students from being themselves and asking questions, thus damaging their confidence during the formative years of their training.7

Even more alarming is that mistreatment is more commonly directed towards minority students, including female, underrepresented in medicine, Asian, multiracial, and LGBTQ+ students, than it is toward their white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, male counterparts.8 In the same vein that we encourage and recruit people   from minority communities to join medicine, we must be aware of the potential mistreatment they will experience and take clear, targeted steps to protect them. If we, as a community, fail at this task, then we are complicit in perpetuating the systemic inequities and inequalities that are currently prevalent in medicine.

The reality is that the culture of medicine doesn’t have to be this way. It is certain that mistreatment has been inadvertently ingrained within the culture of medical training, so attempting to address this problem feels daunting. There is a current lack of literature regarding what interventions successfully reduce mistreatment, but introspective analysis yields some steps we may take in an attempt to slowly chip away at the current social infrastructure.9

First and foremost, students must realize and acknowledge the negativity they have been subjected to is not ‘all in their head,’ but instead a universal and rather unfounded experience. The next step is to seek support from classmates, friendly administration, and trusted professors and physicians who can provide guidance and vouch for students’ justice. Addressing mistreatment is at its core a collaborative effort, as we cannot expect only the bravest, most outspoken students to carry this initiative to fruition. Each and every person in medicine can enjoy a role and responsibility in this endeavor. School administrations can create interventions aimed at educating faculty and students about recognizing mistreatment and the harmful effects that public humiliation can have on student learning.10 It is only when students recognize abuse and have a strong support system that they may finally gain the confidence required to be vocal against toxic behavior and speak out for both themselves and classmates. Schools can further assist efforts by ensuring students are aware of their rights in this context, and offering guaranteed protection if mistreatment does rear its head.11 Current physicians may also positively contribute by gently and constructively pointing out questionable behavior among their colleagues to create a more effective learning environment. Finally, our generation of medical students is tenacious, progressive, and outspoken. We can weaken, and even break the cycle, by remembering our roots, exercising our rights, and manifesting the golden rule: to always treat others the way you want to be treated.

  1. 2020 GQ All Schools pdf. (n.d.).
  2. Cook, F., Arora, V. M., Rasinski, K. A., Curlin, F. A., & Yoon, J. D. (2014). The Prevalence of Medical Student Mistreatment and Its Association with Burnout. Academic Medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 89(5), 749–754. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0000000000000204
  3. Major, (2014). To Bully and Be Bullied: Harassment and Mistreatment in Medical Education. AMA Journal of Ethics, 16(3), 155–160. https://doi.org/10.1001/virtualmentor.2014.16.3.fred1-1403
  4. Assessment of the Prevalence of Medical Student Mistreatment by Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation | Medical Education and Training | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2761274?guestAccessKe y=5b371de5-4978-4643-b125-f26972348616&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=022420
  5. Dyrbye, N., Thomas, M. R., Massie, F. S., Power, D. V., Eacker, A., Harper, W., Durning, S., Moutier, C., Szydlo, D. W., Novotny, P. J., Sloan, J. A., & Shanafelt, T. D. (2008). Burnout and suicidal ideation among U.S. medical students. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(5), 334–341. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-149-5-200809020-00008
  6. Markman, D., Soeprono, T. M., Combs, H. L., & Cosgrove, E. M. (2019). Medical student mistreatment: Understanding ‘public humiliation.’ Medical Education Online, 24(1), 1615367. https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2019.1615367
  7. Full article: Exploring medical students’ barriers to reporting mistreatment during clerkships: A qualitative study. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10872981.2018.1478170
  8. Hasty, N., Br, M. E., ford, Lau, M. J. N., MD, & MHPE. (n.d.). It’s Time to Address Student Mistreatment. American College of Surgeons. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.facs.org/Education/Division-of-Education/Publications/RISE/articles/student- mistreatment
  9. Markman, D., Soeprono, T. M., Combs, H. L., & Cosgrove, E. M. (2019). Medical student mistreatment: Understanding ‘public humiliation.’ Medical Education Online, 24(1), 1615367. https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2019.1615367
  10. Stone, J. P., Charette, J. H., McPhalen, D. F., & Temple-Oberle, C. (2015). Under the Knife: Medical Student Perceptions of Intimidation and Journal of Surgical Education, 72(4), 749–753. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2015.02.003
  11. Mazer, M., Bereknyei Merrell, S., Hasty, B. N., Stave, C., & Lau, J. N. (2018). Assessment of Programs Aimed to Decrease or Prevent Mistreatment of Medical Trainees. JAMA Network Open, 1(3), e180870–e180870. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0870

 

Categories
Clinical General Law Public Health

Let Me Be Brief: Politics in Medicine

A series of briefs by the Texas Medical Association’s Medical Student Section

By: Shubhang Bhalla, Chelsea Nguyen, and Alejandro Joglar

There are only two possible scenarios: either the Mayans were inept seers, or they ran out of stone. In any case, the predicted end of the world missed its appointment by exactly eight years. With nearly three million deaths globally, COVID-19 has quickly assumed its standing as one of the leading communicable causes of mortality.1 Despite the novel therapeutics to combat the pandemic, recent scientific models and  health information now report that masks could have prevented nearly 12% of mortality associated with SARS-CoV-2.2 Surprisingly, this simple piece of personal protective equipment has become politicized, with some opponents claiming that masks are an infringement on human liberty. In the current sociopolitical climate, we are amid two pandemics: one of SARS-CoV-2 and another of misinformation—both equally harmful. Much like the historical precedent set in 1918 with the formation of     the Anti-Mask League, public health leaders of the twenty-first century must face the challenge of juggling objective science, pandering politics, and devastation left in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Public health has been consistently linked to leading political efforts of the time. From the development of environmental regulations, seatbelt laws, and smoking zones, to the contentious debate over mandatory vaccinations, efforts to improve public health sometimes impinge on various political ideologies and interests.3 Often, these debates can be broken down to the fundamental balance of individual autonomy and communal benefits. This intricate relationship between public health and politics has become increasingly strained during the current pandemic. Many critics of the pandemic response argue that by “flattening the curve,” individual autonomy has been infringed upon. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has catalyzed the transformation of established social operations: business closures, online education, and disruptive daily living. However, among what some call “liberty-depriving” mandates, the mandatory mask  usage remains a significantly contentious proposal. Wearing a mask serves to fulfill two broader, complementary goals: individual responsibility and adherence to a common, public paradigm to eradicate the pandemic. Despite its complementary nature, the wearing of masks has become a catalyst for political conflict, becoming a form of divisive political symbolism for the American public.

Today, only twenty-five states currently mandate face masks in public;4 however, as restrictions begin to  lift due to mounting public pressure, it is critical to understand that the origins of the mask resistance is the consequence of inconsistent scientific recommendations, actions of political figures, and America’s long-standing principle of liberty. The argument of wearing masks is simple: viruses are transmitted via droplets, and properly constructed masks can prevent the spread of infected droplets. According to the CDC, this is called “source control.”1 However, the delivery of this message has been muddled. In April, the World Health Organization (WHO) instructed the public not to use masks, while the CDC recommended the opposite. In June, the WHO adjusted its guidance to state that the public should wear nonmedical masks only in specific instances of high risk of infectivity. However, the CDC director touted universal mask wearing as “one of the most powerful weapons” to curb the rates of COVID-19.5 The net  result of conflicting recommendations was a divided population who sought concrete guidance from political figures.

Yet, political figures further allowed for festering sentiments against masks to transform into a symbolic ideology. Initially, the conflict arose with protest against government mandates, cited by some as “extensive governmental reach into individual action,” but as the debates shifted towards masks, a new conflict—one of the “culture war”—reigned.6 In this battle, masks were described as “muzzles . . . restricting His [God’s] respiration mechanism.”6 As these views gained popularity, politicians’ action indirectly supported these protests. Top officials, such as Donald Trump and Mike Pence, sought to erroneously show strength by limiting mask usage or outright denying the need for the equipment. In Montana on September 14, 2020, former Vice President Mike Pence stood in front of a large crowd to support the state’s Republicans. However, many individuals who attended the event, including Mike Pence, were not wearing a mask despite a mask order that was in effect for the surrounding county.7 Furthermore, at the national level, Congress denied passing the Masks for All Act of 2020, an initiative to provide high-quality masks for all individuals.8 Contradictions between the scientific community, state policy, and actions of key figures downplayed the severity of the virus, influenced public’s perception, and shifted support towards the anti-mask masses.

As of May 19th, approximately 125.5 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, either  by the two-dose series by Pfizer and Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.9 Per the CDC, it is predicted that 90% of the total US population will be vaccinated by July 12th.9 Despite this incredible progress, it is still important to continue following mask-wearing protocols as new research is being developed about effectiveness of the vaccine. For example, it is still unknown whether fully vaccinated individuals can transmit COVID-19 to unvaccinated individuals.10 Additionally, the rise of new variants of COVID-19 may influence the effectiveness of vaccines and the spread of COVID-19 among susceptible individuals. The uncertainty surrounding the vaccines and COVID-19 means it is essential to continue following public health mandates, including mask wearing if unvaccinated, social distancing, and following travel and local guidelines regardless of vaccination status. Dr. Anthony Fauci even mentioned during an interview with CNN that it is “possible” that Americans will be wearing masks in 2022.11

As medical students, we can play an important role by engaging with and educating our communities about the most effective methods of maintaining safety during the pandemic. It is important that we talk with our friends and family about why unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear a mask and follow certain precautions and remaining guidelines (ex: wearing masks on public transport) as well as recommending trusted resources for more information, such as the CDC. As new research develops and guidelines change, being a clear and comprehensive line of communication between science and the public is more important than ever before.

  1. Infection Control: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) | CDC. Centers Dis Control Prev. Published online 2020:1-4. Accessed May 9, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html
  2. Matuschek C, Moll F, Fangerau H, et Face masks: Benefits and risks during the COVID-19 crisis. Eur J Med Res. 2020;25(1). doi:10.1186/s40001-020-00430-5
  3. Bekker MPM, Greer SL, Azzopardi-Muscat N, McKee M. Public health and politics: How political science can help us move forward. Eur J Public Health. 2018;28(suppl_3):1-2. doi:10.1093/eurpub/cky194
  4. Markowitz Does Your State Have a Mask Mandate Due to Coronavirus? AARP. Published 2021. Accessed May 9, 2021. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/states-mask-mandates-coronavirus.ht ml
  5. CDC and WHO offer conflicting advice on masks. An expert tells us why. Accessed May 9, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/cdc-offer-conflicting-advice-masks-expert-tells-us/story?id= 70958380
  6. Dyson, (2020). Are they masks or muzzles? Two discussions highlight different opinions | Latest News | starexponent.com. Free Lance Star. https://starexponent.com/news/are-they-masks-or-muzzles
  7. The Mask Hypocrisy: How COVID Memos Contradict the White House’s Public Face | Kaiser Health Accessed May 9, 2021. https://khn.org/news/mask-wearing-hypocrisy-how-covid-white-house-memos-contradict-ad ministration-coronavirus-defense-policy/
  8. Masks for All Act of 2020 (2020; 116th Congress S. 4339) – GovTrack.us. Accessed May 9, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/s4339
  9. Covid-19 Vaccinations: County and State Tracker – The New York Times. Accessed May 9, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/covid-19-vaccine-doses.html
  10. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Issues First Set of Guidelines on How Fully Vaccinated People Can Visit Safely with Others. Accessed May 9, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p0308-vaccinated-guidelines.html
  11. Fauci: “Possible” Americans will be wearing masks in 2022 to protect against Covid-19 – Accessed May 9, 2021.
Categories
Clinical General Public Health

Let Me Be Brief: Vaccine Hesitancy

A series of briefs by the Texas Medical Association’s Medical Student Section

By: Grayson Jackson, Kate Holder, and Whitney Stuard

Vaccine hesitancy refers to when an individual refuses or delays receiving an available vaccine, primarily due to misinformation, lack of health literacy, or fear.1 This issue—especially in the setting of the COVID-19 crisis and growing misinformation about science and medicine nationwide—is of great importance for medical students as future physicians and scientific communicators. Widespread vaccine refusal may result in untold public health consequences, including outbreaks of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases and rising healthcare costs. Vaccine hesitancy is often observed by quantifying nonmedical vaccine exemptions from state-mandated immunizations. In Texas, these exemptions have tripled since the 2010–11 school year.2 Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control show that during the 2018–19 school year (the most recent available), Texas reported 2.2% of kindergarteners with a nonmedical exemption, amounting to 390,000 exempted children second only to California.3

The ongoing health crisis caused by COVID-19 has placed tremendous hope on vaccine compliance as the most practical way to stifle the global pandemic. Scientific facts have become increasingly politicized, and vaccines represent one of the key topics in which such facts have become distorted and polarized. Some questions (i.e., whether vaccines cause autism) have persistently circulated among vaccine-hesitant groups for years, whereas the COVID-19 crisis has heightened the risk of disinformation as vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna, and others are rolled out nationwide. It is incumbent upon us as future physicians to engage in the responsible dissemination of correct information about vaccines’ safety and efficacy. However, one should also avoid rushing to condemnation or judgment of vaccine-hesitant patients and parents which may only intensify their opposition.4

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) has worked to actively combat vaccine hesitancy and problems with vaccine availability throughout the state. The TMA has been working to support vaccinations including influenza, HPV, MMR and others throughout its history. TMA’s current vaccine advocacy agenda is still working to advocate for flu shots during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The TMA Medical Student Section (MSS) has also continually supported vaccine availability to all Texas residents and promoted Be Wise Immunize chapters throughout the medical school within the state. In addition to TMA’s Be Wise Immunize program, TMA has published a variety of policies supporting vaccinations to increase overall vaccination rates. Policy such as 135.012 Immunization Rates in Texas, 260.072 Conscientious Objection to Immunizations, and 135.022 Adolescent Parent Immunizations all work to increase vaccination rates within the state, promote the Texas Vaccines for Children Program and the Adult Safety Net Program, as well as combat vaccine hesitancy. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic TMA has encouraged the #ThisIsOurShot campaign to combat vaccine hesitancy.

The TMA Medical Student Section supports widespread vaccine availability in a prompt and timely manner to all Texas residents. The MSS supports incorporation of the COVID-19 vaccine into the mandatory vaccine category once it is federally authorized beyond emergency use. This may become increasingly important as we see young people and college students, who deny the vaccine due to not fearing the less negative COVID-19 health outcomes, become the population disproportionately responsible for COVID-19 spread.

As a medical student, you have probably heard countless friends and family members discuss their hesitancy to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Many people have vehemently opposed the COVID-19 vaccination simply because they have fallen victim to false information. As medical students and advocates, we should commit to broadcasting truth and combating misinformation in our local communities. We have the wherewithal and the voice to endorse the COVID-19 vaccine.

1 MacDonald NE; SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy: Definition, scope and determinants. Vaccine. 2015;33(34):4161-4164. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.04.036

2 https://www.texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=55299#_ftnref1

3 https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/coverage/schoolvaxview/data-reports/exemptions-reports/2018-19.html

4 Please visit https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/3-ways-physicians-can-improve-vaccine-conversation.


Fast Facts

  • The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you the coronavirus or make you test positive for the coronavirus.
  • Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, you should receive the vaccine to prevent reinfection.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine will not alter your DNA or impair your ability to have children.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is demonstrably safe and effective and tested through rigorous clinical trials.