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A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

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Get Covered, Stay Covered!

More than 10 million Americans gained affordable health insurance in 2014. Starting on November 15, individuals and their families can sign up or renew their coverage for 2015 using the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace offers quality health plans and financial assistance to help pay for the cost of your health insurance. If you are uninsured – or know someone who is -- or you need to renew your health insurance, here are some facts and resources to help you get started…

Reading up about health insurance can take a little time, but it will pay off — for your heart health and your wallet!

1)      Learn the facts -- The Marketplace is a new way for consumers to shop for and purchase health insurance that best meets their needs and budget. Having health insurance gives you peace of mind that you’ll be able to get the care you need if you get sick without having to worry about enormous medical bills.  You’ll be able to make side-by-side comparisons of the different health insurance plans before you enroll. And you can’t be turned down for coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition, such as heart disease and stroke. Visit our webpage to learn more.

2)      Find coverage you can afford -- Most Americans who gained coverage this year through the Marketplace are paying $100 or less for their plan each month. The majority of people signing up for coverage can get financial help. An individual making up to $47,000 or a family of four with income up to $95,000 a year could qualify for financial help. Use this calculator to see how much financial help you could receive in 2015. If you don’t get covered, you might have to pay a fine.

3)      Sign up – Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace starts November 15 and ends February 15, 2015. If you sign up for coverage by December 15, your coverage will begin January 1. You can visit the Marketplace online at or call 1-800-318-2596 . You can also get help signing up online, in-person, or over the phone. To find local help, visit

Health insurance coverage is critical to our shared mission to fight heart disease and stroke.  Research has shown that people with insurance not only have greater access to primary care and preventative services, but they are more likely to take their medications properly to control risk factors, call 9-1-1 if they are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, and generally have better health outcomes.  And, the more uninsured Americans who get covered, the more affordable premiums will be for all of us.  So, learn about the new coverage options today and help us get the word out to friends, family, and neighbors who need this information, too!

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FDA Announces Plan to Help Improve Health Equity for Women and Minorities

A new action plan released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase the participation of women, minorities, and the elderly in research trials was welcomed today by four leading health organizations as taking an important step toward closing the health care disparities gap.  The groups called on the agency to implement the plan swiftly.

The American Heart Association, National Women’s Health Network, Society for Women’s Health Research, and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease said the “FDA Action Plan to Enhance the Collection and Availability of Demographic Subgroup Data” will not only help boost representation of these population groups in clinical trials, but also will lead to more analyses on how medical drugs and devices affect women and men differently.

The groups particularly applaud the FDA for finalizing its guidance on the evaluation of sex-specific data in medical device studies and for establishing a steering committee and website to oversee and track progress on implementing the action plan. The groups, however, urged the FDA to do even more.  

The FDA’s Action Plan was required by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), signed into law in July 2012.  The act directed the FDA to review medical product applications to determine the extent to which data on how new drugs and devices affect certain subpopulations is being collected, evaluated and released publicly. By taking the actions outlined in the plan, the FDA will emphasize the need to look for sex, race, ethnicity and age-based differences through medical research, allow subgroup-specific data to be more widely available for use in medical practice, and improve the participation of women and minorities in research trials.

“Guaranteeing greater diversity in research trials will help ensure that patients and their health care professionals have the most up-to-date information needed to make the best decisions about care and treatment,” said the four organizations. “By carrying out the actions recommended by the FDA plan, we can advance our nation’s efforts to achieve the high quality health care that women and minorities want and deserve.”

While the organizations applauded the FDA’s work to address the many issues they highlighted in testimony before the agency earlier this year, they called on the FDA to:

  • Establish and clearly spell out for application sponsors the consequences of not collecting or analyzing subgroup data;
  • Take action to address concerns related to the under-inclusion of women, minorities and the elderly in early phase trials; and
  • More aggressively move forward with additional, standardized subgroup information in the labeling of medical products.

“Gender, race and age play a decisive role in how heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease affect us. Yet, these key populations are often left out of the research necessary to better understand the diverse impact of these diseases,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “That’s why the FDA must not allow this new plan to just gather dust on a shelf. It’s critical that these actions be carried out rapidly and aggressively, and we look forward to working with the FDA to implement this plan.” 

“Women and their health care providers need complete and accurate information about the medical products available to them, particularly the specific benefits a drug or device might offer and the risks it might pose to her because she is a woman,” said Cynthia Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network. “The current lack of information exposes women to harm that could be avoided by more inclusive requirements for clinical trials. While the FDA Action Plan is a step in the right direction, the agency must do more than remind and encourage industry to include women and minorities in trials and analyze the data. The FDA must require that companies do this to ensure that that the products women use are safe and effective for them.”

“The Society for Women’s Health Research is pleased that the FDA heard our call for the need to release demographic data and establish training for all reviewers to look for sex differences. One of SWHR’s key priorities for more than 20 years has been making sure this data is appropriately analyzed and reported by the FDA,” said Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research.  “Still, the Action Plan falls short in several important areas. The FDA should do more to prioritize finding out how medical products affect women and men differently and report that information to patients and health care providers, especially since there have been significant discoveries of sex differences from biomedical research in the last two decades.”

“Women and their health care providers are tired of waiting for access to data demonstrating whether drugs and devices are safe and effective for their use. The FDA has studied this problem for decades, yet
the problem has not been fixed,” said Lisa M. Tate, CEO of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. “Implementation and enforcement of these recommendations would go a long way toward assuring that providers can recommend appropriate treatments for 51 percent of the U.S. population, including the 43 million women living with or at risk for heart disease.”

In the coming months, the organizations will submit additional comments and recommendations about the FDA Action Plan and work with the agency and Congress to address continuing areas of concern vital
to the health of women, minorities and older Americans.

Read what FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg had to say about this important step.

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Our new anthem: life is why

School behavioral specialist Carla Leonard had her hand on her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance when a heart attack nearly killed her. Her doctor didn’t mince words with her family afterward: “If I didn’t have surgery, they should pick out a dress for my funeral,” she said. “Plain and simple.”

But Leonard wanted to live — to see her daughter graduate from high school — so after surgery she started on a new path that continues today. She kicked her soda habit, started visiting her doctor regularly and got healthy enough to experience many important milestones in her life.

Leonard exemplifies the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s new brand tagline, “Life Is Why.” The phrase, which began appearing with the logo on on Aug. 1, is much more than a slogan. It’s the singular idea that stands behind all the lifesaving work the AHA has carried out for 90  years – and it’s the very basic idea that people should be healthier so they can enjoy their lives more.

“The work we do matters,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “It has mattered to my family and I’m sure it has mattered to your family. Life is why.”

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Brown’s grandfather had a blockage of his carotid artery in the early 1970s. During surgery, he suffered a stroke, and his life was never the same — nor was his family’s. He died a few years later after another stroke. “I missed my grandfather then and I continue to miss him today,” Brown said.

But she pointed out that scientific research and treatment guidelines have led to much better outcomes for many others in the decades that followed. One of those survivors is Brown’s sister, who is thriving despite two recent strokes. She received treatment at one of the AHA’s primary stroke centers, helping her working through rehabilitation and regain her life.

“My sister is why, my grandfather is why — and all of you are why,” Brown told the organization’s volunteers and staff when announcing the adaptation of “Life Is Why” as a focal point of the AHA’s brand.

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world. The AHA fights these diseases through a wide variety of tactics, yet “Life Is Why” can be attached to every facet of the organization’s work.

Life is why the AHA helps people eat healthier foods and get more active — among the many activities the organization has to help people live healthier lives.

Life is why Roni Noone decided to lose weight so she could enjoy her life with her family.

Noone, a 38-year-old Baltimore mom who struggled with her weight in her teens and 20s, has lost a total of 70 pounds because she wants to be there for those special moments with her family. She has joined a gym and even run a marathon – saying she didn’t want to set a poor health example for her sons Ryan, 9, and Evan, 3.

Roni Noone is motivated by the special moments with her family.

“Last year I took Ryan whitewater rafting, and it was really emotional for me. Now I’m doing all the things I got healthy for,” said Noone, a fitness blogger who’s also writing a book. “I want to run a half-marathon with him when he’s 18. And I want to be able to do all these things that I’m doing in my 30s when I’m in my 50s.”

Life is why the American Heart Association has funded more than $3.6 billion in heart disease and stroke research, more than any other organization outside the federal government. Life is why the association works to develop treatment guidelines that help healthcare providers follow scientifically proven treatment standards.

Life is why the AHA is the nation’s leader in CPR training and science, and why the AHA has helped pass many laws and policies that have improved the public health. In fact, now that 17 states have passed laws requiring CPR as a high school graduation requirement, more than 1 million seniors will leave school every year with this lifesaving skill.

Leonard, 52, has gone on to be an AHA advocate for CPR in schools and screenings to detect heart defects in newborns. And she did get to see her daughter Yasmine finish high school, just one of many milestones she has experienced since her surgery eight years ago.

“The highlight of them all was when I heard that my child had used my life-and-death experience to write her entrance essay for college,” she said. “I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I did not waste the second chance I was given.”

And as 13-year-old Natalia Bascunan of Nutley, New Jersey, will attest, loved ones and special moments are the most important illustration of Life Is Why. Natalia made the Little League all-star team years after facing two open-heart surgeries for a heart defect.

“They loved it because she was the only girl in the state on an all-boys team,” said Natalia’s mom, Roe Corsi. “When they found out she had a heart condition, they loved her even more.”

Another person who has embraced life’s special moments thanks to better health is Bernie Dennis, a longtime volunteer with the AHA who is now the chairman of the board.

Dennis said he didn’t appreciate the risks he was taking with his health until he had three heart attacks in one month, followed by a quadruple bypass. While he recovered, he started realizing some of the things he’d taken for granted.

“I can remember the fact that I was sitting on my porch saying to myself, ‘this is the first time in my life I’ve appreciated the warmth of the sun in May,’” he said.

Getting healthier has meant Dennis has gone on to experience precious family time that he would’ve missed. A high school graduation. A wedding. Playing with his “two beautiful granddaughters.” And dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas.

“There’s a choice you get to make about living or not living,” he said. “My wife’s hand gave me reason to live. My wonderful family gave me reason to live.”

Learn more at 

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Advocate Testifies about the Personal Toll of Chronic Diseases

You're the Cure advocate Stephanie Dempsey of Blairsville, Georgia, testified Tuesday in Washington about the impact of chronic disease.

The hearing was to begin a conversation on chronic care, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Oregon.

Dempsey, age 44, said she has suffered from multiple chronic conditions for most of her life.  She has coronary artery disease, lupus, a seizure disorder and arthritis. She told the committee that her chronic conditions have led to a loss of independence, financial security and family.

“I have always considered myself a middle class American. I had a well-paying job. I owned my own home and was happily married,” Dempsey said.  “Unfortunately, this is not the case today.”

Dempsey was diagnosed with hereditary coronary artery disease at age 21, which has affected all the women in her family. Her only sister died from it at 28.  At age 48, her mother had quadruple bypass surgery.  Dempsey herself had quadruple bypass surgery at 30 and since then has had another bypass surgery and received 27 stents.

She takes 19 medications a day, in addition to doctor-recommended supplements.

Due to her debilitating conditions, she lost her job and her home.  Fighting tears, Dempsey said that the strain caused by her chronic health conditions also ruined her marriage and that she had no choice but to move in with her parents, who take care of her. Her specialists are more than two hours away and due to her seizure disorder, she is unable to drive and her parents must take her to appointments.

The lack of coordination between her specialists caused one to prescribe a medication for lupus that can cause seizures.  He did not remember that she had a seizure disorder.  It took several days and “much persistence” to adjust her treatment.

Dempsey said she’s her own healthcare coordinator.  “Although I consider myself an educated person, navigating this maze is very difficult and very exhausting. But it is my life at stake, so I have no choice except to remain engaged,” she said.

It took two years, but she is now covered by Medicare. Yet, she said she still struggles to pay her medical bills.

Despite her struggles, Dempsey said she felt fortunate to be at the hearing to present her testimony.

“I am confident that you will not forget me and countless other people when you develop policies that will help all of us,” Dempsey said. “Our goals are all the same – to live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Sen. Wyden said at the end of the hearing that it was overwhelming to hear Dempsey’s story.

“My own judgment is that chronic disease has really gotten short shrift in the big debates. I don’t think it happened deliberately,” said Wyden. “What you heard today from Senators again on both sides of the aisle is that those days are over — when chronic diseases get short shrift.”

For more information:

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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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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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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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Time is Running Out to Get Covered

Having quality health care coverage is critical to preventing and treating heart disease and stroke.  That’s why we want to make sure everyone knows that the deadline to enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace is March 31st!

Since the Marketplace opened on October 1st, 2013, over 4 million Americans have signed up for a private health insurance plan- and millions more have qualified or re-qualified for Medicaid. 

If you or a loved one is still needs health care coverage, here are some key facts you need to know to enroll in a quality, affordable plan by March 31st:

  • Security and peace-of-mind are just a click or call away.  You can sign up 24 hours a day, 7-days a week at or by calling 1-800-318-2596.  You can even get in-person help in your own community
  • If you don’t enroll by March 31st, you can’t enroll again until November 2014 and may have to pay a penalty.   
  • Concerned you can’t afford a plan? Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or less.  Financial assistance is available based on your income and family size.  For example, a Dallas family of four earning $50,000/year can get covered for as little as $26 per month.  To learn more, visit
  • All plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace must cover 10 ‘essential health benefits’ to ensure quality coverage.   
  • Don’t delay; sign up today!  It is highly recommended not to wait until March 31st to begin this process.  Individuals and families who submit an application by March 15th can have coverage as soon as April 1st

The reality is that we all know someone who still needs to enroll in health care coverage and we can help make sure they know about the March 31st open enrollment deadline.  Here are a couple easy ways you can share the friendly reminder to #GetCovered: 

1)      Join the Department of Health and Human Services’ Thunderclap!  Sign-up for this Twitter event today to be part of the flood of #GetCovered tweets that will be sent on March 17th to help reach millions of people.

2)      Share our new infographic with a friend (or all of your friends!) on Facebook. 

Share Your Story: Are you one of the millions of Americans who have gained health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace?  Tell us your story in the comments below or by completing our story form

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Our #CHDweek Message: Pulse Ox Saves Lives!

Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) accounts for 27% of infant deaths that are caused by birth defects - the most common birth defect in the U.S.  Early detection is key, which is why advocates across the country are speaking up for a simple, life-saving test for all newborns. 

Pulse oximetry screening is a low-cost, highly-effective, and painless bedside test that can be completed in as little as 45 seconds at less than $4 per baby.  Already this year, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina have joined the growing list of nearly 30 states in which all newborns will be screened for CCHD using a pulse ox test.  Most other states are either working to pass legislation this year or are developing rules to carry out previously enacted legislation.  Just within the last couple weeks, New Mexico’s pulse ox bill passed out of the House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate- and in Virginia, advocates are now urging the governor to sign the state’s pulse ox bill into law! 

If we can save a child’s life, shouldn’t we?  The American Heart Association is proud to work with partner organizations committed to the health of our nation’s littlest hearts – and you can help!  Advocates like you are sending messages, attending lobby days and speaking out across the country.  But our work is not done until every parent can take their baby home from the hospital knowing their heart is healthy.  During Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week (February 7th-14th), help us make some noise in support of mandatory pulse ox testing in every state by SHARING the following resources with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, using the hashtag #CHDweek:

  1. Pulse Ox Valentines: On February 14th, show the love for pulse ox screenings that help identify broken hearts! 
  2. Video: A 45 Second Test That Can Save a Life
  3. AHA CEO Nancy Brown’s Huffington Post article: Too Many Babies Are Born With Heart Defects; Simple Test Helps Diagnosis
  4. Fact Sheet: Precious Information- Pulse Ox Screening for CCHD
  5. AHA Congenital Heart Defects Information & Resources

 We want to hear from you!  Are you or a loved one a CHD survivor?  Tell us your story in the comments below…

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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You're Invited!

Throughout American Heart Month, you've helped raise awareness about heart disease in women by wearing red and speaking up about the risk factors we face.  But just how much progress is being made in the fight against our nation's No. 1 killer of women?  To answer that question and more, join us for the 4th Annual State of Women's Heart Health webinar on Wednesday, February 19th at 5:00 pm EST (4:00 pm CST)! 

This LIVE, virtual discussion will feature some of our nation's leading health experts, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Director Dr. Gary Gibbons, so come with your questions ready.

To participate, RSVP today!

Do you have friends who may be interested in joining too?  Share this invitation and the registration link ( on Facebook! 




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The 2013 State Legislative Wrap-Up is Here!

Today’s blog post is by Mark Schoeberl, the American Heart Association’s Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Health Quality

I am pleased to again this year present you with our annual report of state and local public policy progress. We take pride in the diligent efforts of our advocates, volunteers and staff who ensure that we remain focused on helping improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.  As you read this report you will quickly realize that we saw unprecedented public policy success across the country during this last fiscal year.  The victories you will read about in the following pages have a direct and profound impact on our 2020 national goal: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

As we review our 2012–2013 state and local public policy, we should be proud of our active advocacy presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  We helped support the passage of state laws and local ordinances that impact heart disease and stroke risk factors as well as policies that further protect survivors of heart disease or stroke.  Our significant public policy achievements, which you can read about below, include public policies enacted in fifteen states that will assure all newborns are screened for critical congenital heart disease before going home for the first time. Seven states enacted new laws that will assure all students have been CPR trained before they graduate from high school. In the area of encouraging physical activity, two states passed shared use laws that will expand opportunities for physical activity in communities across those states. Six states enacted policy that will strengthen their stroke systems of care and six states moved to strengthen their STEMI systems of care.  Four states were successful in increasing their public funding for heart disease and stroke at the state level. Tobacco tax increases occurred in three states and two states moved to strengthen their smokefree air laws.

On behalf of the thousands of You’re the Cure advocates, association volunteers, donors, and staff who have made these successes possible, it is my pleasure to present to you this annual report of state and local advocacy accomplishments.  Together, we are the architects of a healthier future.


 Click on the image to view the 2013 State Legislative Wrap-Up!


















PS- Stay tuned next month for a video highlighting these successes!  We’ll need your help to share it with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to demonstrate the progress we’re making toward healthier communities and healthier lives through public policy changes… and to encourage others to join the You’re the Cure movement too!

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Help Stop Therapy Caps

If you had a stroke and needed therapy to regain your ability to walk, talk, and carry out daily activities, would you want there to be a limit on the amount of therapy your health care plan covered? 

For stroke patients on Medicare, these ‘therapy caps’ are a real concern.  Limits on outpatient speech, physical, and occupational therapy could force beneficiaries needing therapy beyond the caps to pay out-of-pocket for costly care, or forgo additional therapy they need… unless Congress acts now. 

Our legislators have the power to repeal the caps, or extend an ‘exceptions process’ that has eased the impact of the caps, but they need to take action by December 31st.   Will you take two minutes to ask your legislators to stop the caps? 

The typical Medicare beneficiary has a $1,900 therapy cap.  On average, that amounts to a single evaluation and just 19 therapy sessions.  However, stroke survivors often need 3-5 therapy sessions a week, which means they’d reach the caps in less than two months.  We must do better for these survivors. 

Over 50 groups, including the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, have joined together to push Congress to address the Medicare therapy caps- and you can be part of the action!  Here’s how you can help:

1)      Send a quick email to your Members of Congress today.  It’s easy… we even got the message started for you. 

2)      Encourage others to act too.  Share this link- - on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #StopTheTherapyCap in your message.

Thank you for speak-uping to protect vital therapy for stroke patients!  We’ll keep you updated on the progress we’re making on Capitol Hill on this important issue.  

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Understanding the Financial Costs of Stroke Caregiving

Being the family caregiver of a stroke survivor is often rewarding but it also can take an enormous physical and emotional toll on the caregiver. In addition, there can be significant financial costs that can come with being a family caregiver- an issue often overlooked and less understood.

Nearly 50 percent of Medicare beneficiaries discharged from the hospital after a stroke return directly home, often with the help and support of a spouse or other family caregiver.  Without this assistance, ranging from personal care—including bathing, feeding, and toileting—to housekeeping and medication adherence, many stroke patients would not be able to remain at home but would instead be in a nursing home or hospital.

Although data on the economic value of family caregiving for stroke survivors is scarce, one study conducted about a decade ago conservatively estimated that informal caregivers provide an estimated $6.1 billion annually in informal care to stroke survivors. And overall in our country, it is estimated that family and friends who provide unpaid care to loved ones with conditions that cause limitations to daily activities contribute a whopping $450 billion annually in economic value!

Despite this huge contribution to our country, this service often comes at a financial cost to the caregiver. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA), nearly 43 percent of stroke caregivers said being a caregiver had affected them financially “quite a bit” or “a lot”. If you’re a family caregiver you may very well have experienced this for yourself, but nevertheless, here are some statistics that may surprise you about the financial costs of being a family caregiver:

• They spend $5,531 out-of-pocket in annual direct costs (for such items as assistive devices, modifications to the home, etc.).
• They provide an average of 20.4 hours of unpaid care per week.
• Seven in 10 caregivers cut back on work hours, change jobs, or stop working.
• Loss of wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions for caregivers age 50 or older average $283,716 for men and $324,044 for women.
• One in 3 caregivers use their savings to be a caregiver.
• One in 4 caregivers cut back on spending for their own preventative health or dental care.

At the AHA/ASA, we think it’s high time that we as a nation start focusing on the financial needs of family caregivers and providing them with the support they need to continue their invaluable labor of love. That’s why we’ve joined an informal alliance of organizations working on Capitol Hill to help educate lawmakers about the financial consequences of being a family caregiver. We have been advocating for the establishment of a tax credit for family caregivers that would alleviate some of the financial burdens of providing care. As Baby Boomers age and the need for caregiving increases, providing a tax credit to family caregivers to supplement the care provided through Medicare and Medicaid will become increasingly important for meeting the nation’s long-term care needs – not to mention for our nation’s long-term fiscal health.

Fortunately, some lawmakers are listening. Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Barbara Mikulski (MD) recently introduced legislation in the Senate that would allow taxpayers caring for an aging family member to receive a tax credit of up to $1,200 a year to help assist with the costs of family caregiving. While this bill, the Americans Giving Care to Elders (AGE) Act (S. 1485), won’t address all of the financial needs of caregivers, we believe it is a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned for You’re the Cure action alerts for more information about this effort and opportunities to act.

**Today's blog post was written by Stephanie Mohl, Senior Government Relations Advisor for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

We want to hear from you:  Are you a family caregiver for a loved one who’s had a stroke? How has this affected you and your family financially? Tell us your story in the comments below.

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The Government is Shut Down, but Our Fight Is Not

Turn on any cable news station these days and you’ll see it… the continuously running clock that is tracking the hours and minutes of the government shutdown.  When I see it, I can’t help but think about what could or should have been accomplished during that time, especially when it comes to important policy changes that can help Americans live healthier lives. 

Will you speak-up and tell Congress that we can’t afford inaction when it comes to the fight against heart disease and stroke?  

You see, the 10 days our nation’s elected officials have spent trying to figure out how to reopen the government is time they could have used to:

1) Restore funding for the National Institutes of Health, which supports life-saving heart disease and stroke research.

2) Make progress toward the passage of an education bill that includes the regular, quality physical education our kids need to stay active and healthy.

3) Extend the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process which is necessary in order to ensure Medicare beneficiaries who have a stroke are able to access and afford the rehabilitation they need. 

With less than three months left before the end of the year, we need a quick resolution to the government shutdown to ensure Congress is able to address these key issues and others.  And while our lawmakers have been doing a lot of talking lately, it is time for them to listen… to you!

Please take two minutes right now to remind Congress about the work left on their ‘to-do’ list that heart disease and stroke patients, caregivers, researchers, and advocates are counting on them to accomplish. 

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Now Open: Health Insurance Marketplace

You’re the Cure advocate Vance Lobe has had October 1st marked on his calendar for a while.  That’s because starting today, Vance and millions of other uninsured Americans will have access to affordable health care options through the new Health Insurance Marketplace

As a heart disease survivor, Vance knows how critical access to quality care is.  When he had his first heart attack in 2009, it was just 69 minutes from the time 9-1-1 was called to the time stents were inserted to repair his right artery, which was 100 percent blocked.  And thanks to the coverage he had through his employer, he was able to focus on his recovery.

However, following a second heart attack a couple years later, Vance had some employment changes that left him uninsured and struggling to find affordable options given his pre-existing condition.     

“I pride myself on being a responsible citizen,” said Vance.  “But I had to make a choice: pay for mortgage and food, or health insurance.”

Like many uninsured Americans, Vance faces constant worries of “what if” when it comes to his health.  He’s had to limit his visits to the doctor and make decisions about taking his medications that he shouldn’t have to make. 

“If I had another heart attack, I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “It’s a very real fear every day.”

But help is finally here for Vance and others who have been living without the health and financial security health care coverage provides.  Today, open enrollment began for the Health Insurance Marketplace, providing an easier way for consumers who are uninsured to shop for and purchase health insurance that best meets their needs and budget. 

Vance put it best when he said, “With the Affordable Care Act, my payment is going to be reasonable and affordable — and it’s good coverage."  So, join him in learning about your options and getting enrolled today. 

Here’s what Vance and others need to know about the new Health Insurance Marketplace:

1)  Open enrollment runs from October 1, 2013- March 31, 2014.  Those who enroll in a plan by December 15, 2013 will have their new coverage begin on January 1, 2014.

2)  To learn more and enroll, you can visit, call 1-800-318-2596 , or seek in-person assistance in your area.   

3)  All health plans offered through the Marketplace must cover 10 essential health benefits, including emergency services, hospitalization, primary & specialty care, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative care.

4)  Consumers cannot be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition, nor can they be charged higher premiums based on health status or gender.

5)  Most consumers purchasing a plan through the Marketplace will qualify for financial assistance to help make premiums affordable. 


We want to hear from you: Are you a heart disease or stroke survivor who has stuggled to find affordable health care coverage?  Have you/will you be enrolling in a plan through the new Health Insurance Marketplace?  Tell us your story in the comments below. 

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Toolkit: Covering All Americans

Accessible, affordable health care is critical to the fight against heart disease and stroke- and after decades in which the number of people without health insurance has been increasing, we have an unprecedented opportunity to expand coverage to millions of Americans.  Beginning October 1st, 2013, uninsured Americans in all 50 states and D.C. will be able to shop for and enroll in coverage that meets their needs and fits their budget through the Health Insurance Marketplace (

With 7.3 million heart disease and stroke patients uninsured in the United States (perhaps yourself, a family member, a friend, or neighbor), we all have a role to play in sharing the facts about the new Marketplace and helping to direct people to resources they need to access coverage.  That's why we've created the ‘Covering All Americans’ toolkit!  From infographics and flyers to fact sheets and presentations, we've provided the tools you need to help share this important information within your community and social networks.

Check out the simple ways you can help spread the facts:

  1. Share our Health Insurance Marketplace infographic through on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
  2. Retweet or share the information we're posting on our You're the Cure Facebook and Twitter accounts. 
  3. Change your Facebook cover photo to our Health Insurance Marketplace image when the open enrollment period kicks off on October 1st.
  4. Print off our Health Insurance Marketplace flyer to share in your community. 
  5. Review our Health Insurance Marketplace PowerPoint presentation to learn the facts- then share with others.


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Coming Soon: Health Insurance Marketplace

We’re quickly approaching a significant milestone in the effort to ensure more Americans are able to access and afford the health care coverage they need.  In less than 100 days, open enrollment will begin for the Health Insurance Marketplace (sometime referred to as ‘exchanges’). The Marketplace is a new, easier way for consumers who are uninsured and small businesses in all 50 states and DC to shop for and purchase health insurance that best meets their needs and budget.  You’ll be able to see what your premium, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs would be and make apples-to-apples comparisons of the different health insurance plans before you enroll.  Watch this short video for an overview of the Marketplace.

 (Please visit the site to view this video)

If you are uninsured - or know someone who is- it is very important to do some homework about the new Marketplaces and the upcoming deadlines to secure coverage.  Here are some resources to help get you started:  

1) Learn the facts- Health insurance can be overwhelming and confusing, but the American Heart Association is here to help provide you with the facts and resources you need to better understand the health care law and the new Marketplace.  For example, did you know that beginning January 1st, 2014, health insurers can no longer deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease and stroke?  Or did you know that financial assistance may be available to you to help make premiums affordable through the Marketplace?  Reading up about health insurance can take a little time, but it will pay off — for your heart health and your wallet!  Visit our webpage about health insurance to learn more.

2) Research your options and share with others- Most Americans who receive their health insurance coverage through their workplace will continue to be covered through their employer’s plan. Likewise, those Americans who are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or other governmental plans will continue to be covered through their existing plan.  But for those Americans who are uninsured, (or for Spanish speaking customers) is the destination to learn about your options though the Health Insurance Marketplace.  Right now, you can access new educational information and learn how to begin getting ready for open enrollment this fall.   By October, consumers will be able to create accounts, complete an online application, and shop for health plans.    

3) Enroll- Open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins on October 1, 2013 and ends on March 31st, 2014.  For those who sign up for coverage by December 15, their coverage will become effective on January 1, 2014. For those who sign up after December 15, their coverage will be effective within six weeks.  

The new Health Insurance Marketplace is critical to our shared mission to fight heart disease and stroke, by helping to expand access to health care coverage to more Americans.  Research has shown that people with insurance not only have greater access to primary care and preventative services, but are more likely to take their medications properly to control risk factors, call 9-1-1 if they are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, and generally have better health outcomes.  And, the more uninsured Americans that get covered, the more affordable premiums will be for all of us.  So, learn about the new coverage options today and help us get the word out to friends, family, and neighbors who need this information, too!

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AHA Voices Support For Bipartisan Medication Management Bill

Washington, D.C., April 25, 2013 — American Heart Association President Donna Arnett, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., issued the following comments today on the “Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2013,” sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Ron Kind, D-Wis. The legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate:

“This important bipartisan legislation will provide support for those not achieving optimum medication adherence while saving millions of dollars in healthcare spending.

Studies have shown that many patients with chronic conditions fail to adhere to their medications, resulting in further complications and added costs to the healthcare system.  For example, one in three, or 78 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, but only about 46 percent have the condition adequately controlled.  Medication therapy management  programs are an important intervention that can improve medication adherence.  Research indicates these programs can lead to better health outcomes, reduce the risk of adverse events and help control healthcare costs. For example, it is estimated that 46,000 deaths may be avoided each year if 70 percent of patients with high blood pressure got the treatment they need.

In order to be included in the current medication therapy management program, an individual must have multiple chronic conditions, be on multiple drugs and exceed a cost threshold to the Medicare Part D program of $3,000.The Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act would increase access to medication therapy management services for Medicare Part D beneficiaries who suffer from just one chronic disease – like high blood pressure – ultimately improving healthcare quality and reducing overall healthcare costs.  This is critical because just one condition can have a major health impact. Consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized high blood pressure as “public health enemy No. 2,” after tobacco.

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The Affordable Care Act Turns 3 This Week!

Saturday, March 23rd marks the 3rd anniversary of the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Like any 3-year-old, the law is growing and evolving and has not reached its full potential. However, even in its early years the ACA has benefited people with heart disease and stroke and many of the law’s most helpful protections will be available in the very near future.

How is the law helping patients and families today? Approximately 88 million Americans have received at least one preventive screening or service with no cost-sharing in the last two years – these are tests that are helping to identify disease in its early and most treatable stages  or services, like tobacco cessation , that can reduce the risk for heart disease or stroke.  In addition, about 130,000 Americans with pre-existing medical conditions have gained comprehensive insurance coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. More than 3 million young adults, including young people born with congenital heart defects, have kept or gained coverage by remaining on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Also, 150 million Americans with private insurance coverage now have access to a new tool, called the Summary of Benefits and Coverage, which provides a short, uniform description of their insurance coverage in plain language to make it easier to understand their health plan and compare coverage options.

That’s not all. More than 6 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved nearly $6 billion on their prescription drugs, including $800 million in savings in 2012 alone on medications that help lower their cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels and prevent heart attacks and strokes. There is also evidence that reforms intended to improve the quality and value of care are beginning to work. Medicare costs grew at historically low levels for each of the last 3 years, and health care costs overall grew slower than the overall economy for the first time in more than a decade. That translates into lower than projected health care premiums for millions of Americans.

While these are all helpful changes, the most valuable parts of the law for patients with heart disease or stroke will not go into effect until the end of this year. Starting January 1st, people with pre-existing medical conditions will no longer be denied coverage or charged higher premiums. For those who need health insurance, new health insurance marketplaces will open October 1st of this year to provide a one-stop place to compare and buy coverage. The private health plans offered through these marketplaces must provide comprehensive coverage for doctors’ visits, hospital care, prescription drugs, rehabilitation and habilitation services, and other needed care. Finally, financial assistance may be available through the marketplaces, depending on income, to help make premiums affordable. In short, these new marketplaces coupled with the new insurance protections mean that Americans will not lose access to affordable health insurance coverage if they lose their job, switch jobs, or start a new business.

No law is perfect, and health reform is a work in progress. Nevertheless, increased access to coverage, more emphasis on prevention and wellness, and improved quality of care are steps in the  right direction. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will continue to work every day to ensure that the needs of patients are met as health reform moves forward.

(**Today's blog post is written by Stephanie Mohl, a Government Relations Manager for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  She works in our Office of Federal Advocacy in Washington, DC.)


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Pursuing Pulse Ox Around the Country

All across America, You're the Cure advocates and American Heart Association staff are working to ensure newborn babies are screened for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. A quick, painless screening using pulse oximetry- really just like a Band Aid placed on the toe or finger- can help alert doctors of a heart defect and ensure babies receive timely care. Congenital heart defects are the #1 birth defect, affecting 1 in 100 babies. Here's a look at just some of the incredible work happening around the country:

 Minnesota: American Heart Association volunteer and Minnesota Representative Nick Zerwas shared his personal story of living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) during an American Heart Association Lobby Day. Rep. Zerwas is a co-sponsor and champion of Minnesota's Pulse Oximetry bill.  Lawmakers, volunteers and the public saw firsthand how easy (and painless) the pulse oximetry test is when the test was given to baby Oliver during the Pulse Ox Demo and Press Event. The demo and pulse ox bill received some great media coverage highlighting Representative Zerwas and his personal story of survival.  Check out the clip from KARE 11 here:



North Carolina:  Greg Olsen, tight end for the Carolina Panthers, joined more than 60 You’re the Cure advocates gathered for North Carolina’s state lobby day to talk about the importance of pulse oximetry newborn screening and other important AHA issues. Many of the advocates were families with children with congenital heart defects, including Mr. Olsen. He testified that day in front of the House Health and Human Services Committee and the bill requiring pulse oximetry screening for newborns was passed unanimously.  Following the hearing, lawmakers joined Mr. Olsen and advocates at a news conference to discuss pulse oximetry screening. 


Oklahoma: On February 12, an amazing group of advocates attended a “Pulse-Ox” Lobby day at the Oklahoma Capitol, including mothers that had lost children due to undetected heart defects, kids and families currently living with congenital heart defects, and medical professionals that specialize in pediatric care.  Thanks to their efforts, the pulse-ox bill was passed by the House Public Health committee that day!  A similar bill has also been approved by a Senate committee, and both bills await a floor vote.



Pennsylvania: Tara and Wyatt Shaffer from State College, PA, joined 70 American Heart Association advocates at the state capitol to meet with lawmakers and participate in a press conference on the importance of pulse oximetry screening for newborns.  Nine-year-old Wyatt was born with a congenital heart defect.  His mother Tara told the moving story of how her son’s doctor luckily identified the defect before they left the hospital.  Had pulse oximetry screening been performed, that would have alerted doctors that there was a problem.  While Wyatt’s story ended happily and he’s now an active fourth grader and avid Heart Walk fundraiser, other families have not been so lucky. Volunteers came back from their meetings with elected officials energized and committed to making a difference by sharing their personal stories

South Dakota: A bill to ensure all newborns are screened for critical congenital heart defects is on the governor’s desk awaiting signature!  Advocate and bill sponsor testimony was impactful in moving this bill seamlessly through both chambers of the South Dakota legislature.  We look forward to the governor's support of this life-saving measure.

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Congressional Women ‘Go Red’ For American Heart Month

A bipartisan group of women from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate joined the American Heart Association on Valentine’s Day to ‘Go Red’ in support of the 43 million women who are currently living with heart disease.

Women members from the House and Senate gathered for a photo at the U.S. Capitol dressed in red to remind people across the country that heart disease is not just a “man’s disease.”  It is the number one killer of women in the United States and accounts for one out of three female deaths annually. Every minute one woman dies because of heart disease.

“The American Heart Association would like to thank the women in Congress who went red today because building awareness is the first step in overcoming heart disease in women,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.  “By uniting in this effort, they serve as an inspiration to women across the country and help remind all of us that by taking action together we can fight back against our number one health threat.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also made a point of highlighting the reason for the red at a press conference.  Check out what she had to say:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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Senator Elizabeth Warren: Why I 'Go Red'

The following message was written by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to her constituents about why she is wearing red this Valentine's Day:

I'm going to have to put off baking my Valentine's Day cake until I can get back home on Friday. I have my heart-shaped pans, but the oven is broken in my new Washington apartment. Even so, I'm not letting the day pass without asking everyone for a favor.

My mother was born on Valentine's Day. From the time she turned fifteen, my father gave her a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and from the time I was nine and bought some heart-shaped pans at the dime store, I baked her a cake. Mother loved the heart connection to her birthday.

Several years ago, the heart connection took on a new meaning. My mother was in good health. She went to the doctor regularly, and, except for some concern about high cholesterol and a few complaints about gas pains and arthritis, she always got a good report. When she had some minor surgery, all the kids and grandkids came to visit. She was doing great, ready to check out of the hospital the next morning. So after a few more turns racing her up and down the hallway in wheelchairs, we all headed home.

In the middle of the night, one of my brothers called. He said Mama was dead. I couldn't believe it. I thought he had made some kind of terrible mistake. He said Daddy had been sitting with her when she leaned forward and said, "Don, there's that gas pain again." Then she died.

The autopsy showed that she had advanced heart disease. No one had any inkling.

This year more women than men will die from heart disease. In fact, every minute, a woman dies from heart disease. And the symptoms for women aren't always the same as for men. As I learned when the doctor called to explain how she died, heart disease can easily be overlooked for women.

So enjoy Valentine's Day and all the hearts, but here's my ask: Today please ask a woman you love to learn more about heart disease. Learn the symptoms. Learn the risks. Learn prevention. Please don't wait.

Tomorrow I'll bake a cake. I'll open up the box that has some of the old valentines my daddy gave to my mother. And I'll ask the women I love to take better care of themselves.

Happy Valentine's Day!


P.S. I'm wearing red for heart awareness to my first Senate Banking Committee hearing this morning. I'm excited to get to work leveling the playing field for working families. Thank you for being a part of this.

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Recording Now Available: Women's Heart Health Webinar

We were so thrilled to have hundreds of advocates join us tonight for the 3rd annual State of Women's Heart Health webinar.  Thank you to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and Million Hearts initiative Director Dr. Janet Wright for participating in this important discussion about our nation's No. 1 killer of women and the actions we can all take to reduce risk factors and raise awareness. 

If you weren't able to join us for the live chat, or would like to watch it again, you can view the webinar recording here

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It's time to break out the red!

Tomorrow is National Wear Red Day and the start of American Heart Month!

Since the first National Wear Red Day 10 years ago, tremendous strides have been made in the fight against heart disease in women, including:

  • 21% fewer women have died from heart disease
  • 23% more women aware are that it's their No. 1 health threat
  • Women-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment have been published to better inform the medical community. 
  • Legislation has been passed by Congress to help end gender disparities

 But the fight is far from over as hundreds of thousands of women still die each year. It's time to stand stronger, speak louder and join us in the fight.

Here are five easy things you can do RIGHT NOW to help make a difference:

  1. Tell our nation’s decision-makers why the fight against our nation’s No. 1 killer must be prioritized.
  2. Join the 'America Goes Red Challenge' by sharing a pick of yourself, your family, your coworkers, or your community going red.
  3. RSVP for the 3rd annual State of Women’s Heart Health webinar on February 5th.  You’ll hear from our nation’s top health officials about advancements in fighting heart disease in women.
  4. Spread the word!  Share this awesome video on Facebook and Twitter highlighting the progress that has been made toward improving women’s heart-health.  
  5. Know the Symptoms of a Heart Attack. Some signs may be a different for women than men.  Learn them and share them with a woman you love.

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You're Invited! State of Women's Heart Health Webinar

Are you ready to kick-off American Heart Month in a big way?  Join us for the 3rd Annual State of Women's Heart Health webinar!  This informative discussion with some of our nation's health leaders- including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and Million Hearts initiative Director Dr. Janet Wright- will highlight advances in women's heart health, actions you can take to reduce your risk factors, and ways you can help raise awareness about the No. 1 killer of women. 

Who: YOU

What: A national webinar with the American Heart Association, WomenHeart, and representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration.  There will be a Q & A, so come ready with your questions! 

When: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 4:00 EST (3:00 CST)

Where: Your computer. 

How: Register today!  You will receive a confirmation email with details to join the webinar. 

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“Hello! My name is ____”

It’s time to welcome the 113th Congress!  We all know the best welcomes are personal, so we’re asking You’re the Cure advocates to introduce themselves to their members of Congress by recording a video and uploading it to Facebook.

We’re calling it the “Hello, my name is ____” campaign.  We want your elected officials to know you and your heart or stroke story- and to remember it when they vote this year.  When you record your video, consider using this script (and try to keep your video to about 60 seconds!):

 “Hi my name is [your name] from [City, State].”

 “I am passionate about policy changes that can help improve cardiovascular health in this country because [tell your story].”

 “Now that I’ve shared my story with you, I have one question for you: Will you remember me when you vote this year?”

Watch an example from our National Grassroots Director, Clarissa Garcia:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Once you’ve recorded your video on your phone, tablet, or camera, save it and upload it to Facebook. To upload your video to Facebook:

  1. Scroll to the top of your Facebook homepage where your status box is.
  2. Click Add Photos/Video.
  3. Click Upload Photos/Video.
  4. Select your video from the location you saved it to on your computer or mobile device.
  5. Write a post for your video.  Make sure to ‘tag’ your Representative and Senators and our American Heart Association: You’re the Cure page!  We recommend using this caption:

Hello, @[Enter your lawmakers names starting with an “@” symbol to tag their accounts], my name is [your name], and I’m an @[American Heart Association: You’re the Cure] advocate. Here’s why I support heart-healthy and stroke-smart public policies. Will you remember me when you vote this year?

(Note: Use our Legislator Search tool to identify your Representative and Senators.  You’ll need to “Like” their Facebook pages in order to ‘tag’ them with your video.)

If you’re unable to upload a video, there’s another easy way to introduce yourself to your legislators. Simply share your story by sending a personalized email today!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to let us know at

We can’t wait to see your videos. Thanks for being the cure!

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2012 You're the Cure Federal Recap

As we get ready to welcome the 113th Congress to Capitol Hill in January, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on all of the activity that took place on key heart and stroke issues this year.  In a tough economic environment, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, helped play critical defense to protect funding and programs that support our shared mission of building healthier lives.

We’re also proud to report that over 34,000 new grassroots advocates joined You’re the Cure this year, making our unified voice that much stronger in our communities, our states, and in the nation’s capital.  And what a noise we made!  Advocates took over 350,000 actions this year, from sending emails and making phone calls, to attending events and meeting with lawmakers, and more.   

Thank you for your hard work to influence Congress in 2012.  We’re excited to make even more progress in 2013!

2012 Action

What’s next?

Congress has yet to extend the Medicare Therapy Caps exceptions process, which is critical to ensuring stroke patients on Medicare are able to access and afford the physical, speech and occupational therapies they need. 

The coverage caps on rehabilitation services will kick in on January 1st, unless Congress passes an extension of the exceptions process by the end of the year.  Tell your legislators immediate action is needed for Medicare stroke patients now!

A key provision of the HEART for Women Act was signed into law earlier this year as part of a larger bill extending funding for the Food and Drug Administration! 

The new law requires the FDA to report on how new prescription drugs and medical devices work for women and minorities and to develop an action plan for improving participation in research.  Watch for the FDA’s report and action plan in the next 18 months.

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and key patient-protections continued to take effect.       

As implementation continues toward 2014, when several  key provisions will take effect, the AHA will continue to work to ensure the needs of heart & stroke patients are being met.  Learn more about what the law means for you. 

The fate of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) remains undecided, with the House and Senate yet to reach an agreement  on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

As Congress’ work to pass a Farm Bill continues in the 113th Congress, so does our work to protect the FFVP and other nutrition programs from being cut or altered.  Take action in support of fruits and veggies in schools.  

As the Federal government works to negotiate a deal to address the current fiscal situation, funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) research, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prevention programs, and the Rural and Community AED program remains in jeopardy. 

If Congress and the President fail to stop automatic across-the-board funding cuts (aka: the ‘sequester’) by the end of the year, research and prevention programs will be cut by 8.2%.  Speak-up today to help prevent cuts!  The President will submit his 2014 budget to Congress in February, from which Congress will negotiate an appropriations bill.  Stay tuned for opportunities to act.

Programs that support walking amd biking in communities, like Safe Routes to School, took a big hit in the Transportation Bill passed and signed into law.  Loopholes now exist that allow states to use previously dedicated walking and biking funding for other transportation projects.   

Communities around the country are now hard at work to ensure that funding is provided for walking and biking projects as the law is implemented.  The Transportation Bill will need to be renewed in two years, presenting an opportunity to regain dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian initiatives.   

Big Tobacco’s efforts to get cigars exempted from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products bill did not succeed this year.

The bill could come up again in the 113th Congress.  We’ll need your help to continue to keep the pressure on Congress to reject efforts to exempt any tobacco products from the FDA’s regulation authority. 

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New Resource Makes Choosing a Health Plan Easier

Fall marks the start of the ‘open enrollment’ period, during which millions of Americans select a health insurance plan in the private insurance market.  But this year, consumers will have a new resource available to make that decision easier, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. 

This new resource, called the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC), will provide consumers with a short, easy-to-understand description of their health plan choices, including information about the covered benefits, out-of-pocket costs, and the network of providers.  And because all insurance companies and employers will have to use the same format and terminology when providing the SBC to consumers, it will be easier for you to make apples-to-apples comparisons of your options.

Consumers will receive the SBC free of charge and in writing from their insurance company or employer, so keep an eye out for it soon.  Learn more about this valuable resource and view a sample SCB today!

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State Spotlight! CA Passes Heart Defect Screening Law

California recently became the 9th state to pass legislation that will benefit thousands of newborn babies starting July 1, 2013.  AB 1731 ensures that every California newborn delivered in a birthing facility will be given the pulse oximetry test to identify critical congenital heart defects (CCHD).  Assemblyman Marty Block sponsored AB 1731, with the support of the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes

 California You’re the Cure advocates voiced support for this life-saving bill every step of the way.  From over 80 meetings with legislators at California Lobby Day and 12,000 emails to committee members to daily delivery of personal stories before a key committee vote and phone calls to the Governor to push for his signature, it was the grassroots who made this happen.  Special thanks to the following survivors and moms for sharing their personal stories with lawmakers: Rayme Elliott, Hilary Gushwa, Kristen and Tyler Mateson, Melissa Murphy, Gigi Olivo, and Nicole Wells.

As the nation’s leading birth defect, congenital heart defects take a significant toll on families across the country.  Catching a CCHD condition before the baby is discharged from the hospital increases his/her chances of a longer, fuller and higher quality of life. New research suggests wider use of pulse ox screening would help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects.

 Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive test that checks blood oxygen levels and low levels indicate a potential life-threatening heart defect that might otherwise go undetected.  AB 1731 adds pulse oximetry to the newborn screening panel.

Congratulations to our California You’re the Cure team on this important, life-saving policy win!                  

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Waiting for 2014: Henry & Essential Health Benefits

Continuing their “Real Stories, Real Reforms” series, Georgetown University Health Policy Institue's CHIRblog presents the second profile of everyday people across the country who will – or have already – benefited from new consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act.  Meet Henry, a pediatric stroke survivor, and learn about his family’s struggle to obtain affordable, quality insurance and how the Affordable Care Act may help.

Losing health care coverage just before your due date is not something you read about in “What to Expect When Expecting.”  Who would expect to lose their health insurance just when they needed it the most, but that is just what happened to a family from Plain, Wisconsin.  When other expectant parents were putting finishing touches on the nursery or picking up a few more diapers, Beth and Aaron Ferstl were grappling with news that Aaron had lost his job and with it, his family’s health insurance.

Aaron was laid off on January 16, 2009.  He and his wife assumed their family’s health insurance coverage purchased through his employer would cover them through the end of the month. Beth’s due date was less than a week away, so if all went smoothly, Beth and Aaron were hopeful their new baby would be born while they were still insured.

But life doesn’t always go as planned and their new baby came a couple of weeks after Beth’s due date.  They also received the shocking news that their health insurance coverage was cancelled the day Aaron lost his job. Under a federal law known as COBRA, workers who lose or leave their job are eligible to continue their coverage in their former employer’s health plan, as long as they pay the full premium. So with money from their savings and lots of help from family, Beth and Aaron scraped enough together to pay the high-cost COBRA premiums to continue their coverage.

Unfortunately, their bad luck did not end there.  Shortly after delivery, their newborn son Henry began seizing and stopped breathing. His doctors soon determined that Henry had suffered a stroke in utero, the result of a blood clot that lodged itself solidly in the left side of his brain.  Visit the CHIRblog to read the Ferstl family's full story.

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Heart and Women Health Groups Hail New Legislation to Help End Healthcare Disparities Among Women and Minorities

The American Heart Association, Society for Women’s Health Research and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease released the following statement:

Washington, D.C., June 26, 2012 – The American Heart Association, Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, today applauded passage of important legislation that would make crucial data available about how new drugs and medical devices affect women, minorities and ethnic groups.

The groundbreaking language took the form of an amendment sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to the Food and Drug Administration user fee bill. It strengthens an earlier provision set forth in the HEART for Women Act – bipartisan legislation passed in the House by a voice vote in 2010. Final passage of the overall FDA bill came today and it is expected that President Obama is expected to sign the FDA bill into law.

“We want to thank Senator Stabenow, Representative Lois Capps and other supporters of this important amendment to the FDA bill,” said American Heart Association President Gordon Tomaselli, M.D. “They matched vision to action and determination to results. We view this as an enormous step forward in providing crucial information that can be used not only to advance the fight against CVD and stroke, but also help end the disparities and inequality in health care for women and minorities.”

Progress on women’s healthcare research has been painfully slow – and with tragic consequences. For example, it comes as an unwelcome surprise to many that heart disease, stroke, and other forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD) are the leading cause of death in American women, claiming about 432,000 lives each year – or nearly one death each minute. CVD kills more women than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Minority women and those belonging to low-income groups are disproportionately affected by heart disease; the death rate was 28 percent higher for black women than their white counterparts in 2006.

Over the past few decades, researchers have learned that gender differences play an important role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of CVD. Heart attack symptoms may manifest themselves differently in women than in men, and women may also respond differently to cardiac medications. For example, digoxin is used to treat heart failure, yet is associated with an increased risk of death among women but not men. And a next-generation device used in heart failure patients is associated with a higher risk of stroke in women.

Women represent just 38 percent of subjects in National Institutes of Health-funded cardiovascular studies. In addition, three-fourths of cardiovascular clinical trials do not report gender-specific results, making it difficult for researchers and clinicians to draw conclusions about their effects on women.

“This provision has been one of SWHR’s key advocacy priorities for over two decades,” said Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of SWHR. “We are pleased to have worked with AHA and WomenHeart to achieve this advancement for women and minorities. It is important that this data is submitted to the FDA for analysis if we hope to achieve personalized medicine in the United States.”

This legislation will help provide for more informed decisions by patients and healthcare providers. It would require the FDA to publicly report within one year on the extent to which clinical trial participation and safety and efficacy data by gender, age, race and ethnicity is included in applications for FDA approval of new drugs and medical devices. Moreover, the agency is required to create an action plan to improve the availability of helpful information to patients, healthcare providers and researchers.

“The inclusion of this provision is a game changer for women’s health,” said Lisa M. Tate, Chief Executive of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. “Knowing how women will be affected by the drugs and devices used in their treatment will lead to better and more informed choices by patients and providers.”

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AHA CEO Applauds Supreme Court Decision on Health Reform

Washington, D.C., June 28, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act:

“The historic decision handed down today will benefit America’s heart health for decades to come. Questions about the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality have overshadowed the law’s progress. With this ruling, that uncertainty has finally been put to rest.

By upholding the law, the nation’s highest court has sent a clear message that patients should be the first priority in an ever-changing healthcare arena. The court’s action in support of the ACA helps remind us what’s really important – enabling all Americans to obtain affordable, quality health care. We can now build on the significant advances already achieved under the act and truly transform our healthcare system.

Because of this ruling, the ACA can be fully implemented to help reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans and, more immediately, prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years through the Million Hearts initiative. Under the law’s robust provisions, we are expanding access to preventive care and medicines to reduce an individual’s risk factors; placing a stronger emphasis on community prevention and wellness; and providing access to the care patients need to recover after a heart attack or stroke so they can lead longer, more productive lives.

For the 122 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including the 7.3 million with some form of heart disease or stroke who are uninsured, this decision will likely be met with a great sigh of relief. No longer will they be denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status. Beginning in 2014, these Americans will finally be able to attain the lifesaving care they desperately need at a price they can afford.

The ACA has also placed an extraordinary emphasis on the one thing that can ultimately conquer heart disease and stroke – prevention. For individuals, the law will continue to provide screening services that help keep risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and tobacco use in check. At the state and community levels, the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund will continue to provide the tools and resources Americans require to eat better, be more physically active and live tobacco-free.

Each and every one of us will need health care at some point in our lives. With this momentous decision, the Supreme Court has ensured that when we are patients, we can focus on our healing and recovery, instead of worrying about whether we can obtain or afford the quality care we all deserve.”

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Senator Patty Murray Recognizes the AHA

Washington Senator Patty Murray took time out of her busy schedule to formally recognize the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign! Go Red had worked with the Defense Department to raise awareness about heart disease with female members of the Armed Forces. You can see her full statement below.

June 19, 2012

Mrs. MURRAY. M. President, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I would like to take a moment to recognize the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Heart Association for their work to raise awareness about the dangers of cardiovascular disease amongst our nation’s women veterans and servicemembers.

VA’s dedicated work on cardiovascular disease has successfully decreased the gaps between men and women veterans in heart disease prevention outcomes. However, as cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women, I applaud VA and the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign for partnering under the First Lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative to raise awareness and promote prevention amongst our nation’s female veterans. I am pleased to see VA focus its efforts on educating women veterans through an online fitness and nutrition program and an online support network to connect women with other women who share similar experiences.

Today, women serve in every branch of the military. Women represent fifteen percent of our nation’s active duty military and they are the fastest growing population within the veteran community. The number of women veterans is expected to increase to 2 million in 2020 and with this projected increase it is critical that VA remain responsive to the unique needs of women.

Nearly one in two women, 44.4 percent, will die of heart disease and stroke. We must ensure that women receive equal access to VA health care benefits and services. This partnership between VA and the American Heart Association is a great step toward ensuring that women are educated on the dangers of cardiovascular disease and provided with the resources necessary to prevent it.

Mr. President, I applaud the collaboration between VA and the American Heart Association to raise awareness and increase prevention efforts on an issue that affects so many of our nation’s women veterans and civilian women throughout our country.

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State Spotlight! WV “Heart Moms” Make Life-Saving Law a Reality

A recent legislative victory in West Virginia showed once again that passionate, dedicated advocates can make a difference. On April 5th, 2012, advocate Ruth Caruthers and her fellow “Heart Moms” stood with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in the State Capitol, as he signed “Corbin’s Law” into effect. This life-saving legislation, named after Ruth’s son who passed away from a heart defect shortly after birth, makes pulse oximetry (pulse ox) testing a mandatory requirement for all babies born in West Virginia. Pulse ox is a simple, inexpensive, painless bedside test which can help detect a critical congenital heart defect before a baby is released from the hospital.

“My son inspired me to become an advocate,” said Ruth. “After fighting against heart defects his whole life and showing how incredibly strong and brave he could be, I knew I had to continue his legacy after his death. I had to make a difference in his name to help other mothers and babies.”

Ruth was joined in her mission by fellow parents of children born with congenital heart defects. These “Heart Moms” and dads began networking in any way they could to build support for the bill. Whether it was sharing information and connecting on social media, recruiting new advocates to You’re the Cure, educating expecting parents about pulse ox, doing media interviews, or calling local hospitals, Ruth and the other “Heart Moms” worked tirelessly to get the word out. And it paid off in March when the state legislature passed the bill, followed by the Governor’s signature.

“Being able to watch the Governor sign Corbin’s Bill just made it so real to me. Corbin was in that room that day, shining down and smiling over all of us. It was a day full of happiness and hope. I could not have been happier or more proud of Corbin then at that moment,” Ruth shared.

Her advice to other advocates? “Use social media to your advantage! You must be able to reach people and that is the best way to do it. You need to network, network, network.”

Congratulations to all of the West Virginia advocates who worked so hard to pass this life-saving bill!

For more information, visit the WV Pulse Ox Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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Statement from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on National High Blood Pressure Education Month

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and Stroke Awareness Month. It makes sense to observe both in the same month because when you control your blood pressure, you reduce your risk of stroke —the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 U.S. adults—an estimated 68 million of us—have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. This “silent killer” can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys without a single symptom.

Right now, half of those Americans with high blood pressure still don’t have it adequately controlled. African Americans are at particular risk—often having more severe hypertension, and developing it at younger ages.

Each year, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke and more than 130,000 people in the United States die every year after a stroke—an average of one stroke-related death every 4 minutes.

Together, the financial costs of high blood pressure and stroke are staggering: annual costs of hypertension are $156 billion, with medical costs accounting for nearly $131 billion and lost productivity from illness and premature death of about $25 billion a year. Annual stroke costs to the nation are more than a billion dollars a week.

Fortunately, there are some things in life you can control—and blood pressure is one.

Helping Americans with high blood pressure get it under control to reduce strokes and other forms of cardiovascular disease is a high priority for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and through our national Million Hearts initiative, we are making a difference. Co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—and in collaboration with many other government and private partners—we aim to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Million Hearts is working to reduce high blood pressure with a one-two punch; the first, focusing health care professionals, health systems, insurers, employers, and individuals on the link between good blood pressure control and good health and, the second, encouraging all Americans to know their blood pressure, monitor it regularly, and talk with their doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or community health worker about how to keep it in the normal range. From diet and physical activity to medications, there are easy, effective and economical ways to measure, routinely monitor, and control blood pressure.

Million Hearts is supported by the many improvements to health care provided by the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which now strengthens the prevention of stroke by ensuring that many adult patients receive preventive services, including blood pressure screenings, at no cost.

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Two AHA Volunteers Speak about the Importance of Health Reform

Two American Heart Association volunteers were profiled in a Mother Jonesmagazine article about what could happen if the Affordable Care Act is struck down by the Supreme Court.

Marla Tipping has a four year old son that needs his blood cleaned every 2 weeks in order to maintain safe cholesterol levels. If health reform is struck down, finding care for their son, Cam, could be impossible if they lose their current coverage for some reason. (Watch Cam’s story here)

Another AHA volunteer, Jeremy Aylward, found himself in that exact position when he was kicked off his father’s insurance at 22. Due to a continental heart defect, Jeremy wasn’t able to find insurance until he found a full-time job because he had a pre-existing condition.

“[I had] no affordable, realistic insurance coverage options,” Jeremy said to Mother Jones.

In addition, once he found coverage, his plan did not kick-in until a year later because his insurance had lapsed and because of his pre-existing condition. In 2014, this won’t happen to anyone else, unless health reform is repealed.

Read their and other stories in the Mother Jones article here.

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AHA CEO Nancy Brown Joins Other Partners Supporting the Affordable Care Act During Supreme Court Hearings

Health coverage is easy to get if you’re healthy. The problem is when you’re sick or have a history of illness.

For decades, people with life-threatening chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke faced numerous barriers to getting the care they needed. Insurers could deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, terminate coverage when the cost of a patient’s care exceeded arbitrary dollar limits, or raise premiums to unaffordable levels in response to a diagnosis. As a result, patients had to skip or cut short their treatment because of costs, or go deeply into debt to pay for needed care.

The patient protections enacted into law in 2010 are changing that, enabling more Americans to afford lifesaving care. These protections provide patients with the best chance to beat their illness. When fully implemented in 2014, they will require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, eliminate dollar limits on the coverage a patient can receive and ban the practice of inflating premiums for people with health concerns.

The law makes these protections possible by requiring that most Americans buy health insurance. By ensuring that coverage extends both to healthy people, who are less expensive to insure, and to those who are sick, who cost more, the law helps to keep costs down for those who need care the most. Unfortunately, the “individual responsibility” requirement has been attacked as unconstitutional, posing a grave threat to the law’s critical patient protections. Federal appeals courts are divided on the issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on the matter this week.

Our organizations, which represent tens of millions of people across the country with life-threatening chronic diseases, together submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asserting that the individual responsibility provision is essential to preserving the protections that patients desperately need and deserve.

We already know what a health care system without such a requirement looks like: Many healthy Americans opt not to buy health coverage until they are ill, and costs skyrocket as insurance pools fill with people in urgent need of treatment and care. People with pre-existing conditions are charged exorbitant rates for health coverage, putting critical care out of reach for many American families. As a result, many people with a chronic illness must resort to emergency room care, which lowers their chances of surviving their illness and drives up costs system-wide.

Many of those who want the individual responsibility requirement struck down also express support for the patient protections that the provision makes possible. Several states have tried such an approach by enacting insurance protections for patients with pre-existing conditions without compelling healthy people to enter the insurance market as well. These states are now among the most expensive in the country in which to buy insurance, and two of them, Kentucky and New Hampshire, ended up repealing those protections because of increasingly unaffordable premiums.

Half of all non-elderly Americans are living with a pre-existing medical condition. They need the protection from discrimination by insurers that the Affordable Care Act provides. Our hope is that the Supreme Court will enable all Americans to benefit from the promise of access to guaranteed, affordable and adequate insurance.

It is a promise our nation must keep.

Article first published on and was co-authored by Larry Hausner, CEO, of the American Diabetes Association, and John R. Seffrin, CEO, of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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AHA Statement on the 2nd Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

Washington, D.C., March 22, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010:

“As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns 2, the heart health of many Americans continues to benefit from the law’s improved coverage. The American Heart Association’s goal by 2020 is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, and to reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. The ACA, along with the unique public-private partnership, “Million Hearts,” are both key to helping us attain these important goals.

By 2030, 40.5 percent of the U.S. population is projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease, which will cost the nation’s healthcare system $1 trillion annually. We can avert this health and economic tragedy in the future if we practice strong prevention today. Prevention plays a critical role in conquering heart disease and stroke — the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers — and in reducing the enormous costs associated with their treatment. If Americans can eliminate traditional risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels by the time they reach middle age, then they have a very low risk of ever having a heart attack or stroke. The Affordable Care Act is helping Americans improve, achieve and maintain ideal heart health through a greater focus on prevention. Last year, under the new law, 86 million Americans received at least one new free preventive service, including 32 million Medicare beneficiaries. Among Medicare beneficiaries, 20 million people were screened for high cholesterol in 2011.

The ACA also places an extraordinary emphasis on helping communities focus on prevention and wellness. The Million Hearts initiative, launched last fall, sets a goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years by harnessing tools and resources made available by the ACA. For example, states and communities have already received $1.2 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund to transform communities and help people live healthier lives through tobacco-free living, physical activity and healthy eating, and prevention and control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

An estimated 7.3 million Americans who suffer from cardiovascular disease are uninsured and are often denied the coverage they need because of their medical conditions. But under the law’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), heart attack and stroke patients who have been uninsured for at least six months have been able to gain access to comprehensive insurance coverage. Of the 50,000 PCIP enrollees, an estimated 15 percent have heart disease, stroke or another form of cardiovascular disease.

As the nation’s highest court takes up the Affordable Care Act, we hope the justices will remember that these broadly supported patient protections could be undermined if the law’s minimum coverage requirement is struck down. Without this requirement, the promise of guaranteed, affordable health insurance may never be realized by all Americans, including those with heart disease and stroke who desperately need it.”

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Coming Soon: New Tool to Make Understanding Insurance Plans Easier

Given the choice, would you rather prepare your taxes, exercise at the gym, or try and figure out your health insurance policy? If you chose one of the first two options you’re not alone! A 2008 survey found that most Americans agree with you. The good news, however, is that coming soon a new tool will make it easier for 150 million Americans with private health insurance to understand their coverage and compare health plans.

This new resource, called the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC), will provide consumers with a uniform description of their health plan choices in concise, understandable language. And because all insurance companies will have to use the same format and terms in the SBC they provide to consumers, Americans will be able to decide which insurance coverage to choose by making apples-to-apples comparisons of their options.

The SBC will also include a new feature, called “Coverage Examples,” that will show how the health plan’s coverage works for two common medical scenarios – having a baby and managing type 2 diabetes. These examples, which are modeled on the Nutrition Facts label required on packaged foods, will help consumers understand and compare what different insurance plans will pay and what their own share of the costs would be for these common medical situations. A sample SBC, including Coverage Examples, is available on the HHS website.

Why is this important? The information that consumers currently receive about their health insurance is often complex and highly technical, and as a result, patients too often don’t understand what their health plan does and does not cover until confronted with a serious medical condition and high bills for treatment. . In a 2009 survey of heart disease and stroke patients conducted for the American Heart Association, 42 percent of patients said it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to figure out what cardiovascular treatments and care were covered by their insurance.

The SBC is coming this fall for most Americans with private insurance—insurance companies and employers providing insurance coverage to their workers will have to begin providing the SBC at the beginning of open enrollment periods which occur after September 23rd of this year. Unfortunately, however, some special interests in Washington are pushing Congress and the Obama Administration to delay the availability of the SBC.

If you think Americans have waited long enough for simple, straightforward information about their insurance coverage, take action now and ask the White House not to delay this important new rule for consumers and patients.

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Urge Congress to Protect Women’s Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading killer of American women, but sadly, the life-saving WISEWOMAN program only has enough funding to reach at-risk women in 20 states with the tools they need to prevent heart disease and stroke. Meanwhile, millions of women around the country are forced to wait.

Members of Congress can help this proven prevention program expand into more states and reach more women, but they need to hear from you what it will take.

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Nearly 50,000 with Pre-Existing Conditions Covered Under Health Reform Law

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new report today finding that the Pre-Exisiting Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) created under the Affordable Care Act will enroll close to 50,000 people. These PCIPs help those Americans who are barred from private insurance do to a pre-existing condition and who don’t qualify for public programs, like Medicare and Medicaid.

“For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions were locked out of the health care system and their health suffered. Thanks to health reform, our most vulnerable Americans across the country have the care they need,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In 2014, insurers will not be allowed to refuse coverage do a pre-exisiting coverage, but these PCIPs fill-in the gap until that year. All 50 states have these plans in place for their residents.

Click here to read the full statement by HHS.

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AHA Files Joint Amicus Brief to Supreme Court

The nation’s leading groups representing patients and families living with cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke jointly filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court today in support of provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are critical for people with life-threatening chronic diseases.

The American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association filed an amicus curiae in the appeal of a decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta. The decision, from a divided three-judge panel, said the “individual responsibility” or “individual mandate” requirement that most Americans purchase insurance coverage was unconstitutional, but found that the remaining parts of the law could remain in force.

Read their joint statement and gain access the amicus brief.

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Mark Your Calendars!

National Wear Red Day is Friday, February 3rd and we want to make sure you are ready to raise awareness in a big way! In addition to sporting your favorite red attire that day, you can organize Wear Red Day activities in your community or workplace. Visit the Wear Red Day hub to find local events, to sign-up for more information, and to download the 2012 planning guide, which includes posters, flyers, heart health information and more!

Then, be sure to show us how you’re “going red” by taking part in the first ever Wear Red Day Challenge! Record a video or take photos of your efforts to submit to the Go Red Facebook page ( from Jan. 23 through Feb. 23. “Most spirited” winners will be named in 13 categories!

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Nancy Brown Gives Keynote Address at eHI Conference

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown gave the keynote address at the annual eHealth Initiative’s (eHI) 2012 Annual Conference, held January 11-12 in Washington, D.C. Her speech examined the positive impact of technology on cardiovascular health and stroke care and how the AHA is involved.

“I’m proud …that the American Heart Association and its scientific volunteers have played a key role in a wide range of eHealth advances…” said Brown.

Specifically, Brown spoke about the American Heart Association’s initiatives, such as Get With the Guidelines and other programs that aim and improve patient care.

“At the American Heart Association, we’ve seen how the technological component of initiatives like Get With The Guidelines is making a significant and documentable difference in the quality of care and patient outcomes. Around the world, others who’ve embraced technology are experiencing similar results. The bottom line is better patient care and better outcomes,” said Brown.

Brown also spoke about the importance of telemedicine in stroke care and the up-and-coming use of Telestroke Centers in rural and remote locations.

The eHealth Initiative is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to drive improvements in the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare through information and information technology. Other notable speakers at this year’s conference included Carolyn Clancy, M.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Jack C. Lewin, M.D., chief executive officer of the American College of Cardiology and Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., M.A.C.P., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

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Health and Human Services Year in Review

Check out this video below from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that recaps 2011. In this video, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about the Million Hearts Campaign, which the American Heart Association is a proud member. The Campaign aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

Click to see the video!


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Medicare and Medicaid Dodge a Bullet – For Now

AHA/ASA You’re the Cure advocates made their voices heard with the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – the so-called “Super Committee” – about the impact that significant changes or cuts to Medicaid and Medicare would have on many of our most vulnerable citizens with heart disease and stroke, including seniors, children, and those with disabilities. The failure of the Super Committee to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit means that Medicaid and Medicare emerge from the first session of the 112th Congress unscathed – for now.

Under the Budget Control Act, automatic spending cuts will be triggered for many programs beginning in 2013. The good news, however, is that Medicaid and Medicare benefits are exempt from these automatic cuts. In addition, cuts to Medicare providers are capped at 2 percent per year. Despite this good news, however, in this era of deficit reduction it is virtually inevitable that Congress will once again look to Medicare and Medicaid as sources for budget cuts at some point in the future. Stay tuned for opportunities to act to help protect these critical programs.

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[+] Blogs[-] Collapse

Ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, quality health care, regardless of race, gender, age, or ethnicity, in order to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases is essential to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s mission. This issue is embedded throughout all of our policy work- and we are committed to confronting the health inequities and disparities that exist in our country. Because access to quality care is critical to living healthy lives, we support:

Patient Protections in the Health Care System

We support meaningful health reform that helps ensure that families have access to, and can afford, the quality coverage they need. The health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, puts a number of critical patient protections into place, including prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, but the work is not done. The AHA/ASA will continue to support the implementation of the law and efforts to build on the improvements in the years to come.

AHA/ASA is also working to preserve and protect patients’ access to affordable coverage through Medicare and Medicaid by opposing policies that would significantly scale back eligibility, cut benefits, or increase costs.

Bridging the Gap on Health Equity

Cardiovascular disease exacts a disproportionate toll on many racial and ethnic groups- and this problem is worsened by additional barriers to diagnosis and quality care that some minority populations confront. The AHA/ASA supports meaningful legislation to help eradicate health disparities among populations and improved reporting of health care data by sex, race and ethnicity..

Closing the Gender Gap

Every minute in the United States, someone's wife, mother, daughter or sister dies from heart disease, stroke or other form of cardiovascular disease and although heart disease death rates among men have declined steadily over the last 25 years, rates among women have fallen significantly less. The AHA/ASA supports legislation to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke in women.

Addressing the Needs of Children & Adults with Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the United States, and the number one killer of infants. We promote policies that help children and adults with these heart defects live longer healthier lives, including pulse oximetry screening of all newborns to detect life-threatening defects, increased resources for research, more availability for prenatal care, and patient protections to ensure these survivors are able to get health care coverage. 

For more information about the AHA/ASA’s efforts to improve access to quality care for all heart disease and stroke patients, check out the resources below.

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Facts and Figures

  • pdf icon
    Facts: Pulse Oximetry Screening for Congenital Heart Defects

    Learn how mandatory critical congenital heart defect screening for all newborns using pulse oximetry can help save lives. 

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: October 2014 AHA Policy Report

    Find all of AHA's Policy Position statements on various issues with this "at-a-glance" report entitled the Policy Report.

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Benefits of Health Reform for Heart and Stroke Patients

    Learn about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are helping heart and stroke patients access and afford the quality health care they need.

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Benefits of Health Reform for Congenital Heart Defect Patients

    Learn about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are already helping congential heart defect patients of all ages access and afford the quality health care they need. 

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Women & CVD

    Get the facts about the leading cause of death of American women & policies to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Health Equity & CVD

    Get the facts about reducing health disparities to achieve health equity for all races, ethnicities, genders, and ages.

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    Facts: Medicaid & CVD

    Get the facts about Medicaid & the CVD patients who depend on that  coverage to access and afford care.

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    Facts: Health Care Coverage for CVD Patients

    Get the facts about the need for affordable, accessible quality health care for all heart disease & stroke patients and those at risk.

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    Facts: Congenital Heart Defects

    Get the facts about congenital heart defects and the need to establish mandatory screening processes.   

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Campaign Resources

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    Keep It Pumping with Cardiac Rehab Infographic

    Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation by checking out this infographic.

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    Infographic: Affordable Care Act- Protecting Patients with Congenital Heart Disease

    Learn about the protections and rights congenital heart defect patients have under the health care law. 

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    Presentation: Communicating with Congress

    View the slides from the recent presentation entitled Communicating with Congress: How to turn a 10-Minute Meeting with a Legislator into a Life-Long Relationship

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Grassroots Toolkit

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    You're the Cure Federal Advocacy Tips

    Download this document for a quick one-page guide on how to effectively advocate for heart-health policies to your federal representatives.

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    You're the Cure Meeting Leave Behind

    Download this form, fill out your "why," and bring it to a meeting with your federal representatives to help convey why heart-healthy policies should be a top priority during their time in office.

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    You're the Cure LTE guide

    Tips for writing a Letter to the Editor that will get published in your local paper and noticed by your federal representative.

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    You're the Cure Sign-Up Form - Access to Quality Care

    Recruit others to join you as a You’re the Cure advocate using this printable sign-up form.

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    You're the Cure Advocate Guide

    Use this guide to learn about more ways you can get involved as a You’re the Cure advocate.

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