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The Affordable Care Act – Hope for Women in Pain--An Editorial

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It is no secret that women make up a majority of the approximately 25 percent of Americans who suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, and vulvodynia, to name only a few, either disproportionately or solely affect women. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis for such pain can take months or years – and, frustratingly multiple consultations. Even an accurate diagnosis does not lead to relief because few effective treatment options are available.

The reasons for this injustice are many. Health care professionals do not always understand these conditions because of inadequate training. There is not enough scientific research and thus, an alarming lack of effective evidence-based treatments. To add insult to injury, women’s pain reports are not taken as seriously as men and their pain is not treated as aggressively, even though we report pain that is more severe, frequent and of longer duration. We all look forward to the day when this widespread discrimination, neglect, and dismissal of women’s pain will be history, and some little-talked about provisions in the health reform legislation are a step in that direction.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides hope for chronic pain sufferers that should, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, be “applauded.” First, the ACA calls for the Institute of Medicine to convene a Conference on Pain that is meant to: (1) increase awareness of pain as a public health problem; (2) evaluate the adequacy of assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and management of pain; (3) identify barriers to pain care; and (4) establish an agenda for action in both the public and private sectors that will reduce such barriers and improve pain care research. Second, the ACA encourages increased funding for an “aggressive” program of pain research by the National Institutes of Health Pain Consortium. Third, the ACA authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to fund efforts to educate and train health professionals in pain.

Thus, the ACA addresses the very problems that leave women in pain without answers or hope. Health professionals will receive training to accurately recognize and diagnosis pain conditions. Increased funding for scientific research will lead to new and improved treatment options. And, increased awareness about pain may reduce the stigma women in pain routinely face. We are a long way from righting this incredible wrong, but because of the ACA, we are one step closer.

Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment13 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Jennifer Jaff)

MS JAff -you are seriously misguided and uneducated when it comes to pain care and the aca. THe ACA doesnt require any doctor to have any education in pain care-and that is the major barrier to improved pain care in the country. Even the AAPM wrote to the iom indicating such. 7 members of the IOM study on pain are from the APS-and they have indicated they are opposed to requiring doctors to have education in pain care. Calling for moe research from the NIH or cdc wont help people in pain as their is a lack of concern in the cdc and nIH for people in pain-they are the ones who failed to convince congress to give more money for pain research in the first place. And more of the same old biomedical research or underpowered "pain management" research isnt done for people in pain- but for researchers. Its a terrible thing to see without a vision-no one on the IOM or in NIH has a real vision for people in pain-and hence the lives of millions in pain will continue to be lost in a thousand uncaring ways The dried voicess of those in pain remain mute and meaningless and distant as fading stars as Congress wishes to do the bidding of the health care industry and continues to ignore the cries of people i pain

June 16, 2011 - 8:49am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Jennifer Jaff)

A new report (as of this week) suggests that 30% of companies will drop their insurance and pay this fines forcing workers into the "Obamacare" (mostly cause paying the fine is cheaper than paying for insurance). I dislike the way you to dismissed someone's comment pure propaganda w/o explaining its propaganda. Saying someone is wrong doesn't make you right, unless you back up your claim. I have govn't health care, I'm retired military and i can tell you that getting anything done (including simple referrals to GYN) is a hassle and can be a LONG process. I've been waiting for 2 months for a necessary surgery to be approved, my health care is already rationed. Also be careful with your claims in the piece: the ACA "encouraging" funding for aggressive research does NOT mean that the aggressive research WILL happen. It means it COULD. While the ACA "authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to fund efforts to educate and train health professionals in pain." There is not dollar amount allocated, no actual funds and no minimum of people they want to educate. They could educate ONE person or ONE office and declare the program a success. Please keep in mind that legislation is an idealized form of reality; all or none of these things could come to pass. And a simple vote to defund the program and the ACA is DOA w/o repeal. While we can remain hopeful lets not get too far ahead of ourselves and blindly assume that a govn't program is actually going to achieve its goals. In face of the debt crisis, there are likely to be cuts and the easiest cuts are to programs that are barely on their feet.
Kim in Dallas

June 11, 2011 - 12:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

The "Affordable Care Act" is one of the greatest non sequiturs the Democrats have ever come up with. I'd love to know how the rationing of care is going to do anything for women who are suffering from pain. There are no easy answers to these problems, but the ACA is only going to increase the problems we already have by driving doctors out of the healthcare system, by slowly but surely increasing government regulation of healthcare, and by money being directed at whatever pet projects legislators deem will further their own political careers.

June 9, 2011 - 6:46pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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