American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Help Coming to Montana for STEMI Patients

Guest Blogger: Gina Esparza

Montana just received a little extra assistance when it comes to saving lives – in the form of a $4.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to implement a three year Mission: Lifeline initiative. Advocates and health leaders from across the state came together on Monday, March 31, to announce the exciting news at a press conference in Helena, Montana.

Mission: Lifeline focuses on saving lives by increasing the number of patients who are rapidly transported to hospitals capable of opening the blocked coronary artery. The most effective treatment is PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), also referred to as heart catheterization or angioplasty. If PCI is not an option, the next line of treatment is the use of fibrinolytic therapy (clot-busting drugs). Currently, 30 percent of STEMI patients do not receive any therapy. Many more do not receive therapy within the 90-minute timeframe recommended by the scientific guidelines. The funding for this initiative will enhance existing efforts in Montana. The initiative will be implemented over three-years with funding from key partners that share a commitment to improving outcomes for patients in rural Montana.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Montana Hospital Association, 1,799 people were hospitalized in Montana for acute heart attack in 2012, and of those, 777 were the most serious type of heart attack – a ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI, in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Mission: Lifeline is focused on improving the system of care for patients who suffer from a STEMI each year, improving that system will ultimately improve care for all heart attack patients.

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7 Million Enrolled: An Affordable Care Act Update

Accessible, affordable health care is critical to preventing and treating heart disease and stroke.  That makes the progress made during this first 6-month open enrollment period of the Health Insurance Marketplace something to recognize.      

When open enrollment closed on March 31st, 7.5 million Americans had enrolled in a health care plan according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  In addition, millions of Americans were able to gain coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Medicaid expansion that took place in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Even with open-enrollment closed, there are still some lingering questions consumers may have and we’re here to help:

What if I tried to enroll by March 31, but didn’t finish in time?

If you tried to enroll in health coverage through the Marketplace by March 31 but didn’t finish on time, you may still be able to get 2014 coverage- but you need to act quickly.  You must finish your enrollment by April 15 to get coverage for 2014. If you enroll by April 15, your coverage will begin May 1.  Learn more here.


When is the next open enrollment period? 

It’s not too early to think about your next opportunity to gain or alter your coverage. The next enrollment period will begin on November 15th, 2014 and end on February 15th, 2015.  You can sign-up for email updates at  This will, once again, be a critical time to help educate the millions of Americans who remain uninsured about their health care options and help them enroll in a plan that meets their needs and budget. 


Are there any exceptions to the open enrollment period deadlines? 

There are ‘qualifying life events’ that enable you to buy coverage outside of the standard enrollment period, such as:

  • Having a baby or adopting, or
  • Getting married or divorced, or
  • Moving to a new state, or
  • Losing your employer based coverage.

Additionally, those who qualify can apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid at any point in the year.  There is no open enrollment period for these programs.  Also, if you own or operate a small business, you can begin offering coverage to your employees at any time.   

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Opening Day!

Opening Day!

Apparently, only the MLB believes that spring actually started in March this year. Mother Nature does not agree. I was awoken last night by the sounds of plows. Yup. Had to scrape the car again this morning
However, today is opening day. The Sox play any minute now. I firmly believe that spring will come and the Sox will win the World Series again.

I am also ever-hopeful that the legislature will look beyond politics and do the right thing when it comes to providing health coverage to all needy Mainers. All reputable, science-based and economic-based organizations support our position. Allowing hard-working, low-income Mainers to join Medicaid will save the state money, will save taxpayers money and, most importantly, will lead to better health.

So, I am optimistic. Spring will come. The Sox will win the World Series again this year and the Maine legislature will set aside partisan politics and do the right thing. Who is with me?!?

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Knowing Which Medical Products Are Best for Each Person -- It Just Makes Sense

Check out American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown's latest Huffington Post blog post about the need to address health disparities in clinical trials.  

"Turn on your television at any point during the day or night and you will likely run across an ad for a prescription drug, along with a disclaimer about possible side effects. It seems only logical that those side effects are a possibility for anyone who takes the medicine, regardless of gender, race or age.

Unfortunately, that logic is wrong.

Studies of drugs and medical devices do not always report what effects these treatments may have on women, minorities or the elderly. Worse yet, those effects are not always investigated, as members of those populations are often underrepresented in trials -- despite the fact gender, race and age makes people more prone to certain diseases."  Read the full article on the Huff Post Healthy Living Blog. 

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New Hampshire's Lawmakers Pass Expanded Healthcare Coverage

New Hampshire has passed a bipartisan plan to get thousands covered by health insurance! One component of the federal law to increase access to healthcare coverage for currently uninsured adults is the expansion of NH's population eligible for coverage under the Medicaid program. In March the NH House and Senate passed the NH Health Protection Plan to allow almost 50,000 Granite Staters to receive healthcare coverage under the Medicaid Managed Care program. The Bill was signed into law the last week of March by Governor Hassan. The American Heart Association knows Medicaid is already an important source of health insurance coverage for patients with heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Expanding the Medicaid eligible population in NH will increase access to regular preventive care of CVD risk factors for uninsured adults.

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Look At All We've Done

In the hustle and bustle of life, it seems there is always something that needs our attention.  Maybe it’s a lunch appointment, a meeting after work – did you remember to call your mom to wish her a happy birthday?

With so many things monopolizing our time, it begs the question: “Why do we do what we do?”  How do we choose to prioritize what gets our few free moments?  As a You’re The Cure Advocate, why do you choose to align yourself with our mission?  Do you know all that we have accomplished?

Today, we are bragging on you. Each action you have taken: every email you’ve sent to your lawmakers, every meeting you’ve attended has helped propel forward many vital pieces of legislation.  We want to tell how you’ve shaped our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate over the past few years.

2012 Legislative Session: tax on small cigars and all smokeless products was raised. Legislation was also passed to require insurance carriers to cover and reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine.
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in MD are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. 
Thank you.

North Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: required all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  In addition, a total of $2.7 million in non-recurring funding was secured for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in NC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital.   Also signed into law was a policy that ensures designation of Primary Stroke Centers - ensuring stroke patients receive appropriate & timely care. 
Thank you.

South Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: advocates were able to preserve $5 million for the Smoking Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in SC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the Senate passed legislation requiring all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  This legislation is headed to the House of Representatives, and our SC advocates will be vital in ensuring this becomes law.
Thank you.

2012 Legislative Session: Governor McDonnell issued Executive Directive 4, developing an implementation plan for pulse oximetry tests in hospitals. The House also required the Board of Education to develop PE guidelines for public elementary and middle schools.
2013 Legislative Session: Gwyneth’s Law was signed into law.  All high school students will be required to achieve proficiency in CPR for graduation – and all teachers must be proficient in order to achieve their licensure.  The state budget allocated $400,000 for 12-lead ECG’s for EMS, which helps to diagnose the most severe type of heart attack.
Thank you.

Washington, DC:
2012 Legislative Session: the DC City Council allocated $495,000 for tobacco control programs within the Department of Health.
2013 Legislative Session: the DC Telehealth Reimbursement Act of 2013 requires all payers to reimburse services rendered by telemedicine.
Thank you.

Advocates are driving more policies in the 2014 sessions!  Some say “It takes a village to raise a child.”  With You’re The Cure, it “takes a network to make a difference.” Each and every one of you has made a difference.

Thank you for giving your heart.


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Heart/Stroke Patients Make Headway as the Affordable Care Act Turns Four

Washington, D.C., Mar. 23, 2014American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law on March 23, 2010:

“As we mark this anniversary of the ACA, it’s important to think about how far we’ve come in the last four years. Before the health reform law, the sickest patients who needed coverage the most were the ones with the least chance of receiving it – at an affordable price. Thanks to the ACA, that’s no longer the case.

Five million Americans have signed up for private insurance coverage since October 1, 2013. For the seven million Americans with cardiovascular disease who have minimal or no insurance, the new marketplaces offer them the opportunity to shop for, compare and buy the insurance they desperately need. In most case, many can also qualify for financial help to make the coverage even more affordable.

This anniversary also reminds us of another reform milestone that has greatly benefitted heart and stroke patients. As of January 1, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage or charge higher premiums to patients with pre-existing conditions. For the 129 million Americans living with these conditions, this has been a lifesaving improvement.

Despite these advances, transforming our health care system under the new law will face many challenges. The association is committed to ensuring heart and stroke patients have affordable and high quality health care. On this fourth anniversary, it’s crucial for us to keep moving forward with the reforms this law provides. The American Heart Association encourages anyone who is uninsured or underinsured, especially those who are at risk for cardiovascular disease, to check out your options under the new marketplaces and enroll by the March 31 deadline.”

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Jodi Lemacks

Jodi Lemacks, Virginia

In June of 2003, my third child, Joshua, was born via c-section.  Diagnosed with a Critical Congenital Birth Defect (CCHD) before birth, he was immediately whisked away to the hospital next door for his first of three open heart surgeries, without me even getting a glimpse of him.  The first time I saw Joshua the next day, it was hard to see the baby beneath the tubes and wires hooked up to him.  It felt surreal, like I couldn’t possibly be looking at my own baby. 

Joshua managed to survive the first surgery, but then struggled against infections and other complications for almost two months.  My husband and I, along with Joshua’s brothers and other relatives, stood by Joshua’s crib praying that he would make it, but mostly praying that this little guy would not suffer. Then one day, Joshua turned a corner—truly a miracle—and we finally got to bring Joshua home in August; he has made it through two more open heart surgeries since then.  Today, he is a happy, healthy nine-year old who loves baseball, golf, his family and life.

This scenario would have been entirely different if Joshua had not been screened for CCHD (in his case, before birth).  Working for Mended Little Hearts, a national non-profit that helps families who have children with heart defects, I know too well the devastating consequences of lack of screening for CCHD.  I get emails, and sometimes calls, from parents of babies who died or coded because their heart defect was not caught in time, and it breaks my heart. 

Joshua’s type of heart defect is 100% fatal if not caught—usually within a couple of weeks of life.  About half of the babies with this heart defect are not caught pre-birth, so screening soon after birth becomes vital and life-saving.  There are about 10,000 babies each year born with critical congenital heart defects that, like Joshua’s, can be caught through screening.  The sooner a baby is screened, the more likely the baby will get life-saving care.

Parents are looking to their hospitals and their states to help them.  Pulse oximetry screening, now mandatory in some states, is simple, non-invasive and inexpensive.   (For more information on pulse oximetry screening in states visit  This website was created by Kristine Brite McCormick who lost her baby, Cora, due to lack of screening.)  Most states already conduct newborn screening, and many are working to include pulse oximetry screening in their standard newborn screening panel.   In New Jersey, such a law saved at least one life within 24-hours of implementation.  

As of April 2014, in AHA's Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, You're the Cure advocates and Mended Little Hearts have helped make pulse oximetry screening for all newborns the standard of care in MD, VA, NC, and SC, and I am proud to have been able to support the process.

Live in VA?  Thank VA legislators for making this happen for our littlest citizens and their families!


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It's Time for Rhode Island to Mandate Pulse Ox Screening

Massachusetts recently joined the growing list of states that require newborns to be screened for critical congenital heart defects using a simple, non-invasive and inexpensive pulse oximetry (pulse ox) test.  Congratulations to our fellow You’re the Cure advocates in the Bay State for making this happen.  Now it’s time for Rhode Island to act!

Several weeks ago, the American Heart Association and Mended Little Hearts met with Governor Chafee to stress the importance of pulse ox screening.  Our Little Heart Heroes donned their red superhero capes and asked for the Governor’s help.  Let’s put some pressure on and get this done!

Nearly 30 states mandate pulse ox screening for newborns.  Rhode Island has been working on a pilot program and we applaud the hospitals in our state for stepping up to the plate - now it’s time to join the large list of states that require this lifesaving test.  

Share the news with Governor Chafee - tell him that Rhode Island should follow Massachusetts' lead and require pulse ox screening for all newborns!  Click the following link to take action now:


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Arkansas Passes Private Option for Healthcare Access!

On March 4th, just before the legislative session was set to close, members of the Arkansas Legislature voted to continue funding the State’s Private Option for Healthcare Coverage by a 76-24 vote – just one vote more than the three-fourths needed to approve this funding.  The importance of continuing the Private Option in Arkansas cannot be overstated, it serves as a model for other states that may seek an alternative to Medicaid expansion. 

We supported funding the private option because we know that improving access to healthcare, especially preventive services, reduces death and disability due to heart disease and stroke.  The Private Option allows over 100,000 Arkansans who previously went without health care coverage to access preventative services for heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. 

These individuals will now be able to receive healthcare services such as smoking cessation, high blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, and obesity interventions that will improve their quality of life, and in some cases save their lives.

Throughout this tough fight the American Heart Association worked with coalition partners, volunteers and advocates to seek support from key legislators who were either on the fence or not supportive. 

Volunteers such as Deborah Roush, Tammy Quick and Jennifer Ferguson personally made calls to legislators who ended up switching their votes and supporting the Private Option.  Thanks to all YTC advocates for taking action on alerts!

Governor Mike Beebe signed the Private Option Bill into law on Friday March 7th.

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