Barry the Biker is at it again…. riding clear across America to raise money for and public awareness of hemophilia!
Barry Haarde is a 47-year-old with the stamina and ambition of a 20-year-old athlete and the soul of an ancient sage. He also has hemophilia and HIV, and lost a brother with hemophilia to AIDS. He conceived the idea to ride across America two years ago, and completed one trans-American trip last summer, covering over 3,600 miles in 7 weeks. You can read about that exciting journey in a previous blog.
Last year, Barry became the first person with hemophilia/HIV to complete a trans-American bike trip.
This year, he does it again, but in only 30 days! Starting from Costa Mesa, California, Barry will ride an average of 110 miles a day, through the southwest and plains, to arrive after 3,456 miles in Amesbury, Massachusetts on May 23. This is also the day of our annual Spring Gala for Save One Life, the beneficiary of Barry’s fundraising. Barry plans to attend, as soon as he hops off his carbon-framed steed.
Each day of his trip, as he did last year, Barry devotes to someone with hemophilia who died of HIV. He posts daily on Facebook. If you are friends with Barry on Facebook, you will be reminded of each beautiful man who died. What a tribute! Does anyone anymore put this kind of thoughtfulness into action?
Last year Barry raised about $50,000 for Save One Life, the child sponsorship program for children with hemophilia in developing countries that I founded. This year he hopes to raise $35,000. Please consider sponsoring Barry in any amount. Thanks to Baxter Healthcare, our Gold sponsor!
Great Book I Just Read
Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography by Lesley-Ann Jones
I’m on a Queen kick since I witnesses the amazing performance of Gary Mullen and the Works as the Queen tribute band a few weeks ago. I always liked Queen but now love them and appreciate them even more. This is an in-depth look at one of Rock’s most intriguing and talented front men, Freddie Mercury, who is often cited as the greatest vocalist in Rock history. Certainly no one could match his range. This book is a great first look into his life, from a childhood on Zanzibar (I actually saw the house there he grew up in) to his life at boarding school, the roots of his neediness for praise and adoration, the strange duality of his nature–and not just his bisexuality. He was complex, talented and self-destructive. And a showman all the way. His personal charisma, charm and intelligence are clear. This is also about Queen, probably one of the most educated of all Rock bands. Life on the road, Freddie’s affect on the band, how they grew in influence and hit the heights. Those of you who watched Live Aid will recall how Queen stole the show. Their live music far surpasses their recorded. Freddie adored opera and even produced “Barcelona,” an album with his favorite opera diva. You’ll learn about the history of the band, and Freddie’s sad demise to AIDS in 1991. Great read. Four/five stars (but then I am biased)
We just wrapped up a great weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, after a terrible week in Boston. I was lucky to have no problems at the airport, given the tight security, and arrived in sunny Montgomery Friday afternoon. I was greeted by a wonderful display at the Renaissance Hotel: streamers of green and purple, big Mardi Gras-style mask, and the warm hospitality of the Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders of Alabama staff. The theme: Unveiled… Our Future Revealed, a theme the HBDA will use all year long as they raise public awareness of this rare and mysterious thing called hemophilia.
And I was surprised by a lovely and patriotic display of fireworks right outside my hotel window that night!
On Saturday morning, while the kids were organized to be bussed to the local zoo, we adults visited another kind of zoo—the world of health care reform! Our session kicked off with a full audience of about 100 people with hemophilia and their families. “Pulse on the Road” is a three-hour insurance symposium that
brings our newsletter Pulse to life.
This year we will visit six states; we’ve already been to New York for Albany Days and Colorado for the annual meeting.
Our guest speakers were Michelle Rice, public policy director at NHF, of course, and Marvin Poole, a senior reimbursement manage with Baxter Healthcare, sponsor
of this symposium.
Marvin opened with a review of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which led to an explosion of questions. The audience, attentive and curious, was hungry was answers. I jotted down questions as they came:
1. Will your employer be able to deny you due to hemophilia?
a. Marvin replied no. Under the ACA, no pre-existing condition exclusions are allowed.
This is one of the beauties of the legislation!
2. Will the “navigators” (the helpers who will guide us using the new exchanges, now called marketplace, websites where we can buy insurance) be neutral? Or will they work with the payers? Whose side
are they on?
a. Michelle noted that they are not on
anyone’s side. They are trained to be neutral, and are there to help us
evaluate the cost versus the benefits of any given plan, to help us decide
which is best for us.
3. What are the essential health benefits?
a. Michelle noted that certain packages called essential health benefits (EHB) must be included in all insurance plans. These are basic services that must be covered. But… the definition of what these things are may differ! For
example, ER coverage when there is an emergency. What’s the definition of an
emergency? For Michelle it might be an ear infection as she travels a lot. But for a payer, it might be loss of life or limb!
4. Are payers going to cap insurance for premiums? I’m paying $900 a month!
a. Marvin answered that there will be a cap on copays, but premiums will be expected to rise.
5. Explain what the marketplace is.
a. Michelle replied that these are web portals (websites) created by the states that allow people to “shop” on line
for insurance plans. You can plug in your requirements and needs, and the system will bring up various plans for you to compare. These plans will be denoted by a cost-sharing scheme: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. You can choose one of these plans based on how much you are willing to pay. For example, a Bronze plan might be 60/40; you pay 40%, with lower monthly premiums. A Platinum might be 90/10, with high premiums but lower out of pocket costs after that.
But Michelle noted that the maximum out-of-pocket (OOP) costs to us, consumers, for health insurance through the marketplace
regardless of the plan are $6,200 for an individual and $12,000 for a family. What counts toward it? Copays, coinsurance, deductibles related to EHB.
6. What about tiers? If you have a Platinum with 90/10 cost sharing, even 10% of the cost of factor is outrageous.
a. Michelle replied that our understanding is that your OOP, even with tiers, goes toward that OOP max in the marketplace.
7. If you have private insurance, can you still use the marketplace?
a. Not if you have a large employer. As of now, no.
8. What about Medicaid? What changes will happen there?
Brian Ward, president of the HBDA said Alabama is not currently managed Medicaid, but might be soon. Managed Medicaid is when it is managed by a payer like Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) or Aetna, for example. It may have a PDL or formulary which lists the drugs covered by your plan (know this one, for factor!). Michelle said it is very much like a Medicaid HMO: it uses a Primary Care Physician (PCP), and in network hospitals and physicians. Coverage will be the same for services but the networks will be different.
9. Can payers reject prophy on Medicaid managed care?
a. Michelle: NHF hasn’t seen formularies yet r restricted prophy. They will restrict factor provider (meaning specialty
pharmacy). They seem to “get” prophy for kids, not so much for adults and may argue that coverage.
b. Michelle also replied that most changes in Medicaid are not related to ACA. Managed care has been with us for years, and now Medicaid is trying to use it for more groups like hemophilia. Sometimes managed care is better for us all, but the biggest problem for us all is coverage for factor.
One mom lamented, “My son uses $30,000 a month and he’s only 2 year old. I can’t have caps!” Brian then stressed: tell us your stories, your struggles, because we will then tell Michelle at NHF and NHF will can set policy.
After this lively session, I then spoke for 20 minutes about the importance of being able to choose your health care plan, followed by Michelle Rice’s excellent hands-on seminar about NHF’s toolkit, which has attendees crunch through numbers
to calculate the different between two plans for “John Doe,” who must choose between two plans. Wow, the numbers were flying, and attendees quickly calculated the costs. This is a great exercise for families who feel intimidated by insurance policies and questioning charges.
It was an engaging, excellent three hours, filled with inquisitive audience members (every speaker’s dream!), and much information sharing. It is a lot to absorb but family members came away with new tools, new ideas and more solidarity.
Thanks to the Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders of Alabama for inviting us, to Vicky Jackson, executive director extraordinaire and her team, and Brian Ward, president. And to Baxter Healthcare for sponsoring Pulse on the Road and to all the companies who supported this wonderful weekend!
For more information on insurance, download Pulse on the Road for free at https://www.kelleycom.com/newsletters.html.
Great Book I Just Read
Ashes by Frank McCourt
Poignant, page-turning and superbly written story, based on the author’s life, of growing up impoverished in Ireland during World War II. If you’re Irish, you will especially love the historical references, phrases and cultural mind-sets, things we all heard growing up. But mostly this is a book about how a child thinks and perceives his world when he is trying to survive harsh poverty, hunger, loss of siblings, alcoholism, an absentee father and the brutal reception he receives from most adults, including those of the Catholic church. Five/five stars.
The Colorado Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation is flourishing under the leadership of Amy Board, executive director and her team. We had an excellent turnout for our Pulse on the Road insurance symposium yesterday, presented at the Colorado Chapter’s Educational Dayz! 2013.
Friday night started with a fun ice-breaker, dinner and then a great presentation in joint care by my friend Jeff Kallberg, a physical therapist who has hemophilia. This was followed by a carnival in the ballroom. There were lots of children and their families attending, so the whole event was kid-friendly, of course!
On Saturday, I was joined by Michelle Rice, policy director of NHF and Frank Quintieri of Baxter Healthcare to present Pulse on the Road. Frank gave an overview of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a quick review he stated that the ACA, passed in 2010:
Lifts lifetime & annual caps
Dependents stay on parents’ plan till age 26
Eliminates pre-existing condition exclusions
Allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility
Frank explained each of these changes in detail, all of which was good news for people with chronic disorders. The audience had excellent questions in response to his talk, from how does the ACA affect the self-insured plans, to what happens when a child with hemophilia turns 26 and then doesn’t have insurance. We all agreed that this was one of our most inquisitive audiences to date!
I spoke after a break about the importance of choosing a healthcare plan: you need to know terms used by payers, where factor is charged on your plan (major medical or pharmacy?), and what are the costs versus the benefits of the plan? Beware of what is covered in–network versus out-of-network. And most of all, know when your open enrollment period is—the time when your employer chooses a new plan. We all had a great laugh when audience member Maryann called it open season; “Like deer hunting?” I replied.
Michelle Rice presented NHF’s excellent Insurance Toolkit, designed to walk you through a hypothetical patient who wants to compare two plans. It’s detailed, challenging and incredibly useful. If you can do this Toolkit, you are ready to compare plans under the ACA through the marketplaces. The audience dug right in and got to work, using the calculators we supplied. And right away people caught on that there was a trick question when it came to plugging factor costs in! Impressive!
In summary, we reiterated that:
Everyone must have health care coverage in 2014
You may need to select your coverage in a marketplace
You must read your insurance policy annually
Hats off to Amy and her team for an excellent weekend, and for being such gracious hosts for us. We’re excited to see Colorado flourishing!
No book review this time. Colorado patient Chris Bombardier, who summited Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina in February (first person with hemophilia ever to do this!) and girlfriend Jessica Carter kindly spent the day with me Sunday to take me hiking and caving. The original plan was to hike 14,000 ft Pike’s Peak but conditions were very bad—high winds and lots of snow. But we had a great day hiking the Gardens of the Gods, and later visiting the Cave of the Winds. Beautiful rock formations under ground, a mile of stunning beauty including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, cave popcorn, cave bacon and soda straws. Colorado has tremendous natural beauty: go see it if you can!
This morning my friend, Barry Haarde, and many of those on Facebook reminded me what a special day it is. The anniversary of the passing of one of the heroes of the HIV/hemophilia community, Ryan White.
I recently met someone my age who had never heard of him. It seems hard to believe, given that he was a pioneer in advocacy for the rights of those with HIV, at such a tender age. And HIV in the 1980s was paramount to the plague, the Black Death, sweeping the country and causing people to react with fear, superstition and discrimination towards those who contracted HIV.
Ryan was born December 6,1971, to Jeanne White, in Kokomo, Indiana, who learned three days later that her baby had hemophilia. Treatment then consisted of factor concentrate injections which were not pasteurized or treated to remove viruses. Shortly after surgery on his left lung in 1984, doctors informed Jeanne that Ryan had contracted HIV. At age 13, Ryan was given six months to live.
What we didn’t know then and what we know now staggers the imagination. No one could have made up a sci-fi story as incredible as a microscopic virus infecting the entire nation’s blood supply and leading to the deaths of 10,000 with hemophilia. Ryan was one of them, and one of the most famous. Why?
His fame stemmed from how he handled discrimination in the Indiana school system, which would not allow him to attend classes. Ignorance about the disease caused mass panic and hate crimes. Ryan was shunned, harassed; one night a bullet was even fired into his home.
Ryan and his mother took the school discrimination case to court. Eventually, Ryan won. He was allowed to come back to school. But, people’s minds didn’t change so quickly or with the court decree. Ryan continued to face harassment by schoolmates, and parents pulled their children out of school. Ryan faced it all with characteristic grace, dignity and acceptance.
Ryan eventually found a school that welcomed him in Cicero, Indiana: Hamilton Heights High School. He thrived there.
His story of courage found its way to the media, and Ryan became a celebrity. A made-for-TV, a biography, many television spots…. and even friendships with Elton John and Michael Jackson. Ryan was hemophilia’s earliest advocate: on March 3, 1988, Ryan spoke before the national commission on AIDS, about hemophilia, HIV, discrimination. It’s fair to say this child–a suffering child–changed the way everyone viewed HIV. He was a pioneer, a role model, and transformational leader.
He died on April 8, 1990, Palm Sunday, surrounded by Jeanne, his sister Andrea, his grandparents and his friend, Elton John. Jeanne remains fairly active in the hemophilia community and attends various events to remind us all of the importance of advocacy. Ryan’s impact goes far beyond his short time on earth, and he will eternally be remembered as a compassionate child who suffered, transformed his suffering into a mission for a greater cause, and left a lasting legacy so that others could avoid the discrimination he endured. His life is a blueprint of hope and courage in the face of alienation and pain, like so many others in our very special community.