1 in 5 U.S. Workers Uninsured

Just to show you it isn’t only the unemployed who lack health insurance, one in five U.S. workers are uninsured, according to a study covered by the Associated Press.

A 2006-07 study for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health-related philanthropy group, found nearly 1 in 5 workers was uninsured, up from fewer than 1 in 7 during the mid-1990s.

In Texas, 28 percent of workers lacked health coverage in 2006-07, the study found. That is an increase from 24.2 percent uninsured in 1994-95. Texas tied New Mexico for the largest percentage of uninsured workers in the study.

“We’re kind of a poster child for what happens when work doesn’t deliver access to health care,” said Anne Dunkelberg, the associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which is an advocate for low- and moderate-income families.

That lack of coverage ultimately affects Texas taxpayers because hospitals spend billions on care for the uninsured, Dunkelberg said.

Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, which conducted the research, said, “The thing I think is interesting is how many workers are newly uninsured.”

“In the last couple of years we’ve seen a deterioration of private health insurance,” Blewett said.

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have shot up six to eight times that of wages, reported AP. Yet through payroll taxes and other federal and state levies, workers are paying to cover the elderly, the poor and the children of low-wage working parents.

President Obama has proposed spending $1.5 trillion over 10 years to expand health care coverage for everyone.


Why Are Teen Birth Rates Rising?

As I wrote last week, more babies were born in the United States in 2007 than at any other point in our history, even at the height of the baby boom 50 years ago. The spike in births were due to an increase in babies born to single mothers — now at 40 percent of all births — and teen and Hispanic mothers in the country.

But the “trend” the media has consistently highlighted is the increase in teen pregnancy rates for the second year in a row. For example, here is why a writer at Salon Broadsheet thought more teen girls were having babies:

The evidence has certainly been mounting for those who consider abstinence-only a massive, expensive failure. After a decade and 1.5 billion federal dollars spent promoting abstinence-only, a rigorous scientific study authorized by Congress reported no real difference in when program participants first had sex, or whether they had sex before marriage, or in their number of sexual partners. Obama has been a vocal supporter of comprehensive sexuality programs that stress abstinence but also provide medically accurate information about contraception and how to use it. (Under current restrictions, recipients of federal abstinence-only money are prohibited from teaching about condoms or other contraceptives, other than to discuss failure rates.)

But there are further questions to be asked of yesterday’s numbers. Compiled from birth certificate statistics, all they really show is an increase in birth rates among young women. They don’t tell us the pregnancy rates, or whether or not the pregnancies were intended, or what (if any) information these women had ever received about contraception. Former Broadsheet contributor Carol Lloyd, no supporter of abstinence-only, was understandably skeptical about attributing blame solely to those programs back in December 2007, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that teen birthrates had risen for the first time in 14 years. Me too, regarding this most recent set of stats. Why, if the abstinence-only programs of the past decade are the culprits, has it taken 14 years for the decline in teen pregnancy to reverse itself?

“It takes a while for change to kick in and for a trend to reverse itself,“ said Dr. John S. Santelli of Columbia University, who studies teenage sexual behavior and appeared alongside Knox to offer testimony at the Congressional hearings on abstinence-only programs in April 2008. “But there is strong evidence linking HIV education, change in teen sexual behaviors, and the declines in teen pregnancy between 1991 and 2004.“

While I do support comprehensive sex education and even the distribution of free condoms to sexually active teenagers, I think the media failed to address the cultural issues in this debate like the Catholicism in the Latino community, which forbids birth control, and even self-esteem among some girls who feel they have no career options to motherhood.

Also, I am curious if the number of teen pregnancies will decline now that we are in a recession. According to an analyst in the original Associated Press article, the birthrate, in general, declines in economic uncertainty. It will be interesting to see if this holds up for teenagers as well. What do you think?


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

This week we sadly mourned the loss of one of our moms, Janet Carol Lane Eaton, who was known as “Janetle” at both MotherTalkers and Daily Kos. She died of colon cancer at the age of 56.

For those of us fortunate to have known Janet either virtually or offline, she was an attorney by trade who left a job at a law firm to raise two children who are now in their 20s. She was smart, thoughtful and not afraid to hold back on her opinions. She was an inspiration to all of us and will be missed.

We were also shaken by the death of actress Natasha Richardson who died at the age of 45 from a freak skiing accident. She left behind her husband and two teenaged boys. While there is much talk in the media whether a helmet would have saved her, one thing we can all agree on is to hold our children as often as we can and never hold back from our loved ones.

Another topic that dominated the news this week, was the birthrate in the United States. More children were born in 2007 than at any other time in our country’s history, even at the peak of the baby boom 50 years ago. Some of the increase was due to the number of babies born to single, teenaged and Hispanic mothers. About 40 percent of those births were to single moms, again, more than at any other time in our history. But analysts expect less people to have children now that we are in a recession.

Also, in case you missed it, Eric Carle’s famous book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is 40 years old. Newsweek had a story about the author, who is now 80-years-old and living in Key West, Florida. Anyways, La Oruga Muy Hambrienta, Colores and Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves ahí? are three of my children’s favorite books. I found two of the three books in the foreign language kid section of Barnes & Noble. They also like the Dr. Seuss books, the “dinosaur” series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, and some “junk” books we found at the Scholastic Book Fair like Star Wars and Dora. What are your children’s favorite books?

Speaking of Dora, what do you think of the new doll to be introduced in the fall? Here is a picture of her at 10-years-old.

Also, we discussed the desperate measures some schools are taking to make up for budget shortfalls such as leasing cell tower space on school premises and selling ad space on exams. You have got to read some of our reader comments especially in regards to the ad space. They are funny!  

Finally, we discussed at what age children should receive allowances. There seemed to be agreement, at least on our site, that children should learn to earn and save money at around 7 years of age, but no money should be tied to household chores. This made sense to me.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Traces of Melamine Found in U.S. Baby Formula

Before moms of formula-fed babies freak out, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is saying the traces of the toxic chemical melamine found in baby formula are actually safe and parents should not change their baby’s diet because of it, according to the Associated Press.

Previously undisclosed tests, obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the FDA has detected melamine in a sample of one popular formula and the presence of cyanuric acid, a chemical relative of melamine, in the formula of a second manufacturer.

Separately, a third major formula maker told AP that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula.

The three firms — Abbott Laboratories, Nestle and Mead Johnson — manufacture more than 90 percent of all infant formula produced in the United States.

The FDA and other experts said the melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally.

The U.S. government quietly began testing domestically produced infant formula in September, soon after problems with melamine-spiked formula surfaced in China.

(Dr. Stephen) Sundlof said there have been no reports of human illness in the United States from melamine, which can bind with other chemicals in urine, potentially causing damaging stones in the kidney or bladder and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.

Melamine is used in some U.S. plastic food packaging and can rub off onto what we eat; it’s also contained in a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment and can leach into the products being prepared.

Sundlof told the AP the positive test results “so far are in the trace range, and from a public health or infant health perspective, we consider those to be perfectly fine.”

Still, as AP writers Martha Mendoza and Justin Pritchard correctly pointed out, that seems to be a departure from the agency’s stance in October after three infants in China died and another 50,000 were sickened due to melamine-spiked formula. On October 3, the FDA said, “FDA is currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns.”



The United States in 2050

The U.S. Census Bureau pulled out its crystal ball and painted an image of the country in 40 years.

Statistics show that the population will comprise of mainly minorities — specifically Hispanics — and elderly people. Also, the population will balloon from 300 million to 439 million by 2050, according to the Washington Post.

Minorities, about one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become a majority by 2042 and be 54 percent of U.S. residents by 2050.

The shift will happen sooner among children, 44 percent of whom are minority. By 2023, more than half are expected to be minority, and by 2050, the proportion will be 62 percent.

The largest share of children, 39 percent, is projected to be Hispanic, followed by non-Hispanic whites (38 percent), African Americans (11 percent) and Asians (6 percent).

The statisticians said the older retired population will be comprised of largely caucasians born after World War II while  younger families and workers will be Hispanic. Said William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution:

“Politically, whites will be much more interested in issues like health care and pensions,” he said. “At the same time, the growing minority population — Hispanics, especially — will be concerned about more youthful issues, like schools.”


More On Our Broken Healthcare System

Here is yet another anecdote about our broken healthcare system. My father’s company is asking all workers to take a blood test for cholesterol, prostate cancer and other illnesses. If the employees are not healthy, the company plans to force them on a diet or raise their health insurance rates by $1,500.

“Is that even legal?” I asked him.

“That’s what people at work asked,” he said.

As it turns out, it is illegal to ask a job applicant for medical information prior to making a job offer, according to an article in USA Today. But there was nothing in my quick and dirty google search to suggest that companies cannot test their employees and re-evaluate medical coverage. What slime balls.


Where Would You Live?

I’ve been thinking about Amy’s Icelandic Happiness diary and wonder where I would live if:

borders were open and healthcare and retirement benefits were portable?

Would I leave the U.S.? Hell yes. In a heart beat. I have no sense of pride or patriotism.

First on my list is Canada since I know it and love it. And, DH is Canadian so that’s a no brainer. Second is Sweden. Third is now Iceland. My trouble with these is that they are, aside from Canada,  very homogenous societies and therefore lack racial diversity. I don’t like where we live now because it is so very, very white. I want my kids to know the rainbow of humanity in all its wonder and glory.

So, where in the world is best?

The U.N. named Iceland as the most desirable country in which to live (in 2007). After Iceland is Norway, Australia, Canada, and Ireland.  The U.S. dropped to 12th from 8th. Honestly,  I’m surprised we are that high on the list.

National Geographic notes,

The Human Development Report 2007/2008 rated the countries in terms of their “human development index”: a statistical analysis of factors that influence a person’s quality of life, such as per capita gross domestic product and life expectancy.

For instance, Icelanders can expect to live 81.5 years, according to 2005 figures in the report. Adult literacy rate is high, and the combined enrollment rate for primary, secondary, and advanced university degrees is 95.4 percent.

The report focused on the “fierce urgency” of climate change as the defining human development issue of this generation.

“All development is ultimately about expanding human potential and enlarging human freedom,” the authors wrote. “Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice.”

Climate change as a human development issue? Who’d a thunk it???

So, where would you live and why? Oh, and pardon the poll…there aren’t enough spaces to list all of the countries properly….for instance, Asia is big and diverse so please leave a comment once you vote! Thanks.


Hump Day Open Thread

As expected, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama each took a state in last night’s primaries, according to CNN.

CPSC Warning on Open Windows: Now that we are enjoying warm weather, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a statement warning parents of the dangers of leaving the windows open — even with screens. According to the CPSC, 18 children fell out of windows last month, including two who died.

ATTN Madonna Fans: The Material Girl, who turns 50 in August, gave an interview to Vanity Fair, revealing all, including her adoption in Malawi, motherhood in general, Kabbalah and her new album, Hard Candy. No mention of the rumors that her and long-time husband Guy Ritchie are headed towards splitsville.

Running News: Double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is poised to head to the Beijing Olympics now that an international appeals court ruled that his blade prosthetic legs are indistinguishable from human legs, according to the Washington Post. Pistorius, who was born without fibulas, had his legs amputated before his first birthday.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


The Death Penalty for Child Rape

The U.S. Supreme Court will listen to a case this week whether the death penalty should be applied to heinous criminals who do not commit murder, or in this case, child rapists, according to Newsweek.

Patrick Kennedy was convicted in 2004 for the rape of a child, his 8-year-old stepdaughter, and the state of Louisiana contends that his crime is tantamount to murder and worthy of death. Nobody in this country has actually been executed for anything other than murder since 1964, although five states, including Louisiana, have laws on their books permitting capital punishment for the rape of young children. Several others are considering broadening their laws to do the same. So the court must determine, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of someone who didn’t commit a murder, but did violate a young child.

The article went on to say that executions are on the decline, hitting a 10-year low of 52 in 2006. In a Gallup poll, two-thirds of Americans said they support the death penalty for murderers, but slightly more supported life imprisonment for these criminals rather than capital punishment. Confidence in state executions have been shaken due to 127 exonerations and “pervasive evidence that racism still taints the capital-sentencing system,” according to Newsweek’s Dahlia Lithwick.

Lithwick contended the Supreme Court ruling could either extend the death penalty to rapists or help it see its  “last gasps.”

I certainly hope it is the latter as there is no evidence that capital punishment deters crime, makes us safer, and there is always the small chance of executing the wrong person. That’s not where I want my tax dollars spent, although I could certainly understand why the victim’s family would want to mete out such revenge.


Beware Carnivores

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has just published a report linking red meat and processed meats with lung cancer, according to Reuters. The study had a significant sample — 500,000 people aged 50 to 71 — and accounted for smoking.

Those who gorged on different types of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, bacon, red meat sausage, poultry sausage, luncheon meats, cold cuts, ham and most hot dogs like turkey dogs were likely to succumb to various cancers, including lung cancer.

Meats can cause cancer by several routes, the researchers noted. “For example, they are both sources of saturated fat and iron, which have independently been associated with carcinogenesis,” the researchers wrote.

Meat is also a source of several chemicals known to cause DNA mutations, including N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Jeanine Genkinger of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Anita Koushik of the University of Montreal said the findings fit in with other research.

“Meat consumption in relation to cancer risk has been reported in over a hundred epidemiological studies from many countries with diverse diets,” they wrote in a commentary.

We are largely a vegetarian household, although I’ve been eating meat for the duration of my pregnancy and now that I am nursing — and sharing my carnivorous appetite with Ari. I just crave a lot of animal fat and carbs and sometimes that is all Ari will eat, too. But this study makes me reconsider our diets and return to our veggie roots.

Then again, I am sure there is a genetic component, too. My father, who considers eggs vegetables and said his body would go into shock if he ate, say spinach, has lived on lots of fried foods and meat. And did I tell you that he has smoked for decades and drinks more coffee and coke than any other beverage?

He is always teasing DH for his vegetarianism and insists that he will outlive him. I should send him this article.