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Progress Notes features doctors and medical students across the country on the frontlines of our health care system. Our views and experiences are diverse, but we share common goals and values. We speak up to move toward a future where everyone can have access to affordable, high-quality health care. Please share our posts, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

National ASK Day

By Dr. Seanta Clark

We are deeply saddened by recent events here in South Carolina. Like too many communities across this country, ours was touched this week by horrific violence. 

As a Nation, we must grapple with the deep issues of racism and intolerance that allowed this terrible tragedy to happen in such a sacred space.  At the same time, we also know that violence - both intentional and accidental - is impacting the health and lives of too many families across the country.

At times like these it’s easy to feel helpless, but we are not. As physicians and advocates we have a sacred role in caring for our patients and in creating safer communities.

On this National ASK Day and every day, please join me in encouraging parents to ask if there is a gun where their children spend time. Every day, 48 children are shot and 7 die from gun injuries. We must prevent this senseless loss of lives. It’s a simple question that can make a difference. ASKING SAVES KIDS.

Please join me and over 19 million households in taking the pledge today to ASK this life-saving question. Gun violence prevention starts at home.

I hope you will join us in this moment of reflection and opportunity to stop gun violence. 


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My Story

By Jose Raul Rivera

I want to thank members of Doctors for America for their continued efforts in fighting for my right to be healthy!  I've lived without medical insurance and life is scary without it. I became ill and lived with some strange symptoms that I could not explain and struggled to ignore. Seven years later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 

When I was uninsured, I earned just enough that I did not qualify for Medicaid. I could not afford private insurance, but would have benefited from an expanded Medicaid. Treatments for MS existed in 2006; an earlier diagnosis would have allowed any of those treatments to slow the progression of MS. There are still days when touching my daughter’s hair is literally painful and others when I cannot carry her down the stairs. I am grateful that I now have medical insurance through my employer, but I know that there are too many who cannot afford coverage and live in states that have not expanded Medicaid. I do not want any of them to suffer from preventable or treatable conditions. This is why DFA is so important to me and my family.

Today, I can play with my daughter because treatment has slowed the progression of my MS and allowed me to manage the permanent symptoms. Because of the ACA, when I decided to explore different career options, I was not denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Because of the ACA, if difficult times hit again, we will have medical insurance since we live in a state that has expanded Medicaid. Because of the ACA, I know that our future is secure.

My wife and I have supported DFA since its beginnings and want to encourage all of you to help further its cause. We have the ACA but there is still much more to do before all Americans have access to quality and affordable health care.  

This is why we are pledging to match the first $1,000 of every dollar donated to DFA today.

Combined with Dr. Murali Sivarajan's offer it brings the total challenge for today to $11,000. If you donate -- before midnight -- your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar.


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Act Now: Ask the Senate to Extend CHIP

By Matthew Molloy, MPH

We need to act now to protect children's health.

This week, the Senate will vote on bipartisan legislation to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance to over 8 million children. The number of uninsured children has dropped by more than 50% since CHIP's bipartisan beginning 17 years ago.

Call your Senator directly or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and an operator will connect you with your Senate office.

There are many important reasons to keep CHIP strong:

  1. Benefits: CHIP plans are designed for children and provide more comprehensive benefit packages than most Marketplace plans.
  2. Networks: Because CHIP plans are for children, they have larger provider networks than Marketplace plans, including access to specialists that are important for the sickest kids.
  3. Affordability: CHIP plans keep out-of-pocket costs down for low-income families.
  4. "Family-Glitch": Up to 2 million children could lose their insurance coverage because they have a parent who receives employer-based insurance and cannot qualify for financial subsidies in the Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act reauthorized CHIP through 2019, but funding for the program will run out onSeptember 30, 2015 unless Congress acts.

In March, the House of Representatives passed H.R.2, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, by a wide margin of 392-37 - an impressive display of bipartisanism. H.R.2 repeals the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and extends funding for CHIP through 2017. Now it must pass the Senate.

Call your Senator directly or call (202) 224-3121 and an operator will connect you.

Thank you for all you do to advocate for patients.

Matthew Molloy, MPH

Maryland State Director



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Celebrating 5 years

By Dr. Mona Mangat

For years, opponents claimed nobody would sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. They said people would not pay their premiums. They said there would be death panels, and that the law would kill jobs and be a disaster for our country. They were wrong.  

Five years later, the sky hasn’t fallen but the uninsured rate has – to record lows. 

Today, 16.4 million Americans have new coverage and we have seen the largest reduction in the uninsured in four decades. Millions of people no longer have to worry about being refused coverage or getting charged more for a pre-existing condition.

By every measurable standard the ACA is working and providing real and powerful change in people’s lives! 

Just look beneath the numbers and you’ll find success stories of patients whose lives have been saved by their new coverage. People like Lisa Gray who finally has access to the care she needs. Lisa, featured in the Los Angeles Times, was diagnosed with Leukemia and credits the ACA with saving her life. If not for the ACA, she would have been unable to receive chemotherapy.

Thanks to your advocacy, Lisa – and the millions like her – are alive today with access to lifesaving care. You stood up, spoke out, organized in your communities, lobbied Congress, rallied in the rain and used your voice as a trusted physician to speak for patients in need.

Together, we changed our Nation’s healthcare system and got it working better for patients. We know there is still much work to be done to increase access and improve care but we are making real progress as a movement toward a better, healthier America.

Mona Mangat is the Board Chair of Doctors for America and an Allergist-Immunologist based in St. Petersburg, Florida.


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Health Care Reform in East Harlem

By Andrea Jakubowski

The DFA National Conference in April of 2013 came at an incredibly exciting time. The health insurance marketplaces were set to launch October 1st, Medicaid eligibility had expanded, and we were witnessing a historic step towards improving American’s access to health care. As a group of Mount Sinai medical students new to DFA and attending the conference for the first time, we were caught up in the excitement. But we also learned the sobering fact that millions of individuals who would be newly eligible for Medicaid or private insurance on the marketplace weren’t aware of how health care reform could benefit them. Doctors for America had helped pass the ACA and defend it from attack, and now we would need to help with its implementation.

Our group of medical students came away from the conference impressed by the urgency and importance of helping spread the word about health care reform. Mt. Sinai is located in East Harlem, a neighborhood with a high burden of disease and many barriers to health care access. Students at Mt. Sinai have a long tradition of working and serving in East Harlem, and we began brainstorming how we might bring the message of health care reform to our patients and fellow community members.

We decided to start a Mt. Sinai Doctors for America student chapter. We knew we wouldnt be working alone in East Harlem, as the neighborhood is rich in trusted organizations serving devoted clients and patients. Our first step was to form a partnership with the East Harlem Community Health Committee (EHCHC), a coalition of community organizations with a history of working on implementation of health policy changes in the community.

Our goals in forming the partnership were: 1) Educate East Harlem residents about new options for health insurance and how to enroll 2) Describe and document East Harlem’s experience of enrollment from the perspective of community organizations and 3) Facilitate communication and collaboration between community based organizations (CBOs) working on enrollment.

A group of twelve medical students, we dedicated ourselves to forming partnerships with local organizations, including three major community health centers and two large social service agencies in the neighborhood. From September 2013 until the end of the open enrollment in April 2014, we gave nine presentations with over 115 in attendance, including for a NYC Department of Health ACA forum, part-time staff of Union Settlement Association, clients of several small community organizations, and the Mt. Sinai medical community. We tabled at health fairs and tax clinics, talking with attendees about the ACA. Finding that the outreach resources from the state marketplace often lacked adequate information about eligibility and how to apply for insurance on the marketplace, we created over ten outreach documents in English and Spanish that we used and shared with navigators and many organizations in the neighborhood.

One our group’s most significant contributions was creating linkages between organizations in East Harlem. Working closely with a certified application counselor, students were able to invite her to several of our community presentations and connect East Harlem residents with her services if they needed assistance enrolling. Every month, we presented updates at the EHCHC meetings to share what we were learning through our outreach and enrollment efforts and to generate discussion about how we, as a community, could strengthen our ACA work.

Now, a year after the health insurance marketplaces launched, it seems clear that the health insurance marketplace has been a great success. In New York State, there were approximately 2.7 million uninsured before the launch of the Marketplace. By August, the number of uninsured was just over halved, with 1.4 million signing up for insurance. But as impressive as these gains are, there is still work to be done. Building on the lessons we learned through our work, we are excited to continue our efforts in East Harlem and throughout New York City to keep spreading the word about the ACA and getting covered.

Andrea Jakubowski along with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai Student Chapter of Doctors for America


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Call for coverage

By Donald Nguyen, MD

The deadline for open enrollment is this Sunday. Join me and Doctors for America members across the country in spreading the word out about the final week to enroll for 2015 health coverage.

On Saturday February 14, we are going to help connect Americans with health insurance by picking up the phone to talk with consumers about where and how they can enroll.  It’s something you can do from your living room.

You can make calls in three easy steps:

Step One: Request a Phone List
If you want to host a phone bank or make calls on your own, fill out the Request Form and you will receive the call link and script. Please fill out the request format least 2 days before you plan to make calls.Important: If you are going to phone bank with us on 2/14 be sure to request your form by Friday.

Step Two (optional): Get Friends to Join You!
Once you’ve filled out our Request Form, get ready to make your calls! It can be more fun if you recruit friends to make calls with you, or you can make calls on your own. Everyone needs a computer and should have some time to get familiar with the script. Please note, you may get a list of phone numbers for another state, depending on where the need is greatest.

Step Three: Make Your Calls! You never know whose life can be saved or touched with the knowledge of the new health coverage now available. Pick up the phone and make your calls! 

Don't forget to take a picture and post it on Facebook and Twitter using the #getcovered hashtag or just send it to us, and we'll post it for you!


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Why Young People Should Get Enrolled

By Jose Tapia, DFA Intern

Young people my age tend not see the need to enroll in health insurance. Many of us assume that we are way too young to get sick, and that the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” was passed only to help older, sick people. The reality is that we all can get sick at any age or suffer from an accident.

A friend of mine named Emily who is the first to go to college in her family, is a prime example of the need for health insurance at our age. She currently suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s a chronic condition that affects a person’s digestive system. Typical symptoms include severe stomach pain, nausea, tiredness, and diarrhea. There is currently no cure for this condition, only long-term treatment. Emily lived her entire teenage years as healthy as many of us did, until IBS symptoms arose from no apparent cause at the age of 19. Physicians do not fully comprehend what caused her condition.

Her symptoms quickly escalated and followed her through college. Emily’s parents could not afford private insurance, and she did not qualify for Medicaid in the state of California at the time. Her only viable alternative was to turn to free clinics in her community, but sadly wait times and limited resources prevented her from receiving the care she needed. Emily’s condition worsened so much that she had to drop out of college. She realized that the only hope she had to see a physician was to go to Emergency Room and wait for countless hours, and sometimes even days.

After President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, Emily was able to receive health care coverage. The ACA expanded Medicaid coverage, and she was now able to qualify for the program. Being covered under Medicaid allows Emily to receive the treatment she needs for free. Having coverage meant she was able to receive the proper exams needed to diagnose her condition, and a specialist has been able to properly treat her condition with medication. This treatment has allowed her to go back to college and continue her undergraduate studies. She was able to regain control of her life, no longer having to live with constant, debilitating pain.

Once Emily graduates from college, she may obtain quality and affordable health care coverage through her employer. There are other simple ways Emily can get covered even if her employer doesn’t provide her insurance, or if she works in a nontraditional job. Many nontraditional jobs do not provide health insurance- common examples include baristas, waitresses, retail workers, and self-employment. If that were the case Emily could still very easily obtain insurance, and the costs could be as affordable as a monthly cellphone bill thanks to a provision in Obamacare that could help her pay for health insurance. Additionally, there is another important provision in Obamacare that now prevents insurance companies from denying Emily health coverage simply because she suffered from an illness in the past.  

We can all learn from Emily’s experience. Just because we are young does not make us completely immune to disease or accidents. Plus, with the passage of the ACA it’s now more easy and affordable to obtain health insurance than ever before. Today Emily is 25 and is a great example of why young adults should enroll in health insurance. She is thankful for the passage of the ACA and California’s choice to expand Medicaid access. The benefits the ACA provides are not age- restrictive, and we should all be conscious of our need to get enrolled. To learn more check out this link for an easy and interactive presentation on enrollment

To get covered and take advantage of all the benefits the ACA has to offer, enroll online before the February 15 deadline:

- Jose Tapia, DFA Intern


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MLK Day of Service

By Dr. Manisha Sharma

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” 
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The enrollment deadline is fast approaching. It’s not too late for you to help your neighbors, patients and friends get health coverage before February 15th

Let’s come together on Martin Luther King Day of Service and honor Dr. King by helping educate our communities about the importance of getting covered.
Not able to attend an event or don't see one near you?  Share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter to remind people to get covered. And, don’t forget to use our pocket card to learn how to screen patients for health insurance, answer basic questions, and point them in the right direction.
Together, we can improve lives and ensure everyone has access to the care they need and deserve.


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This is what we did together!

By Dr. Alice Chen

It is hard to put into words how proud I am of the DFA movement.  

Over the past year,
 we have led a diverse coalition to get Dr. Vivek Murthy confirmed as Surgeon General. We have commanded people to hope where they thought hope was folly. We have brought together the medical community, the public health community, and a wide array of partners from all over the country to Stand with Vivek

We got the United States Senate to confirm him, and every piece of what you've done has made that possible. Your support is what makes this organization robust and powerful.

We have all enjoyed Dr. Murthy’s extraordinary leadership since our movement began. As we get ready to share him with the rest of the country and as we wish him well in his new position, I think it is important for each of you to know that this confirmation is not victory for just one person.

The groundwork for Dr. Murthy to defy all odds to become America's Doctor has been laid by doctors and medical students across the country who, for the past 6 years, have challenged the common perception that doctors don't fight to change the world. You have proven that doctors are not too tired, too cynical, too focused on pocketbook issues to care about what's happening to their communities. You have won battles across the country that have gotten people the care they need.

Change doesn't happen all at once with proclamations of the powerful. It happens one email, one tweet, one conversation, one letter, one op-ed, one interview, one moment of bravery at a time. And that is the story of Doctors for America - of doctors, medical students, and supporters across the country who have built this movement together.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to create the change we all want to see in the world around us. We have learned so much from this campaign that will make us stronger and more powerful in the coming years as we keep speaking up for the health of our patients and our communities.

But for today, I want to say from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU. Thank you for all you've done to make this day possible. And most of all, thank you for believing that your voice can make a difference. Because it has.


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Thankful for Coverage

By Dr. Katherine Scheirman

As you gather with your friends and family this Thanksgiving, there is no better time to reflect on the millions of Americans finally getting the coverage they need and deserve and to help spread the word to the millions more eligible for new coverage during this open enrollment period.

Last year, a friend, who had previously been unable to afford health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, was finally able to get it through the ACA marketplace. He raises cattle here in Oklahoma, so he had no access to employer-based insurance. For the first time, he does not live in constant fear of losing everything due to medical bills. He finally has peace of mind and financial security, and even the ability to get all his prescription medications filled every month. That's a lot to be thankful for, and he is.

This Thanksgiving help a patient, neighbor or friend get covered. This season's open enrollment period closes February 15, 2015, but if Americans would like coverage to start January 1, 2015 then they must enroll by December 15. Help spread the word over the holidays about the importance of getting and staying covered. There is no better gift than the gift of health.

Will you spread the word about open enrollment for coverage in 2015? Together, we will help open the doors to coverage for millions. 

Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Katherine Scheirman is the Oklahoma State Director of Doctors for America and a retired US Air Force Colonel.


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