imaz-athar

Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.

Why Medicaid Is Important

President Trump’s budget proposal reveals that his administration plans to cut a whopping $610 billion from Medicaid funding over the next ten years. Including the additional $839 billion that the American Health Care Act plans to slash from Medicaid, the total cuts to the largest health insurance program in the U.S. could round up to nearly $1.5 trillion. That’s an enormous cut. But, it’s expected from a Republican-controlled government that prides itself on fiscal conservatism (sometimes at the expense of people’s livelihood). Medicaid is often criticized, for reasons other than how expensive it is to fund. The main criticisms are that it is an entitlement program that actually provides bad coverage. Some of these criticisms are fair. For instance, individuals on Medicaid have limited access to providers, while providers are reimbursed at low rates for treating  patients—both of these factors sum up to bad coverage. But, criticisms seem to ignore the essence of why Medicaid is important in the first place—it provides coverage to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access health care. In fact, studies show that its expansion may actually have a positive effect on health care by improving affordability and access. A report by the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) found that 78 percent of Medicaid expansion enrollees indicated that they wouldn’t have been able to access or afford care prior to its expansion....

Pros and Cons of The California Single Payer Bill

The California state Senate passed SB 562 on June 1. The California Single Payer Bill would put an end to private health insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, and replace it with a single-payer health care system. Under a single-payer system, all California residents will be eligible to receive health insurance from a single state-sponsored insurance system called Healthy California. All funding for insurance will come from the state government, which means that there are no out-of-pocket costs for consumers. Single-payer health insurance systems are widely used in European countries, and they have been lauded by Democrats in the United States because they guarantee health insurance for all. In many ways, a single-payer system seems like a dream come true—everyone is covered and consumers don’t have to pay a dime! But, like every health care system, a single-payer system has it’s drawbacks. To better understand what the The California Single Payer Bill will look like, here’s a list of pros and cons: PROS California Single Payer Bill Means Insurance for everyone! This is perhaps the greatest and most palpable benefit of a single-payer insurance system—everyone is eligible to enroll in Healthy California. Under Obamacare, California’s uninsured rate dropped from 17 percent in 2013 to 7 percent today. This is a dramatic improvement, but there are still roughly 3 million people in California that are uninsured. This problem of access will be eradicated completely...

Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Mental Health Money For Schools

President Trump’s new education budget proposes to dedicate no money—that’s right, zero—to fund mental health services and other student support services for public schools. Previously, the government provided schools with $1.65 billion in funding for various initiatives, including mental health services. But, in an attempt to reduce the federal government’s role in education, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have decided it’s best to cut all funding for these important student services. Lack of funding is a serious issue for a number of reasons. According to the NIH, just over 20 percent of children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder either currently or at some point in their life. Nonetheless, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 21% of children with mental health issues actually receive services. There is a disparity between ill children and treatment received, and this gap may grow if funding for school-based mental health services is slashed. The disparity may become an even greater challenge for students who live in areas where community-based mental health services are scarce or too expensive—without school-based services, these children’s options are severely limited. The new education budget’s lack of concern for mental health services may harm children’s health in the long run. A child’s mental disorder may worsen and continue into adulthood if not treated early and appropriately. That’s why school services are vital and even preventive—they...

Trumpcare is Bad for Women’s Health

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), or Trumpcare, doesn’t seem to care for women’s health. The bill—which was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives on May 4th—allows states to withdraw from providing essential health benefits, which includes maternity and preventive care. Under Obamacare, all insurance plans are required to provide ten essential health benefits. This provision protects patients—it mandates insurance companies to cover the costs of important care, while also preventing them from selling barebones coverage to consumers. However, as the AHCA/Trumpcare permits states to waive coverage of essential health benefits, the cost of care will shift from insurance company to the patient. And, patients will be forced to pick up a huge tab out of pocket. This will disproportionately affect women who, without coverage, will have to pay high prices for treatment that’s vital to their health, including birth control, cancer screenings, and routine vaccines. Fortunately, the AHCA/Trumpcare isn’t the law yet. But imagine just how much women will potentially have to pay under its provisions! Amino, a healthcare transparency company, looked through their database of nine billion health insurance claims to uncover the astronomically high prices women patients may have to pay under the AHCA. Here’s a summary: About $1,000 for an intrauterine device (IUD). IUDs provide long-lasting birth control. Depending on the type, they need to be replaced every three to 10 years. $4,000 for...

Trumpcare Is Bad For Mental Health Coverage

On May 4, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Republican regime’s new health plan, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), or Trumpcare. This is a win for Republicans, many of whom promised their constituents that they would finally repeal Obamacare. The AHCA is different from Obamacare in many ways, and NPR does a great job of breaking down the main provisions of the new health care bill. One of the ways the AHCA is so different from Obamacare is by how it addresses mental health.   One of the provisions of the AHCA permits states to apply for waivers that allow insurers in their state to eliminate Obamacare-required “essential health benefits” from their plans. The removal of required essential health benefits, which include mental health and addiction services, will likely lead to cheaper, and therefore more affordable, health plans. But, of course, it comes at a cost—while these cheaper plans seem like a good deal for consumers, they actually provide barebones coverage that excludes mental health care. The sad thing is that many consumers aren’t fully aware of the barebones coverage their more ‘affordable’ plan provides. This isn’t necessarily the consumer’s fault, considering how complicated insurance language is….but, that’s a story for another day. The exclusion of behavioral health care is crippling, considering 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness within a given year. The loss of...

Medicine’s Gender Pay Gap is Huge

  A new survey conducted by Doximity, a social media site for physicians, shows that female physicians make an average of 26.5% (or $91,000) less than male doctors. The self-reported data—which was gathered from 36,000 licensed physicians and controlled for factors such as hours worked—shows that the pay gap exists in all medical specialties and in every U.S. city.   The largest wage gap is in neurosurgery, where female neurosurgeons are paid, on average, $93,000 less than males. One of the smallest pay gaps is in preventive medicine, where females still make $35,000 less on average. Meanwhile, in terms of geography, the largest wage gap exists in Mississippi, where female physicians make, on average, $118,000 less than males. The smallest gap is in Hawaii, where women make $45,000 less.   Medicine’s gender pay gap is especially concerning considering many medical specialties rely greatly on female physicians. For instance, specialties such as Pediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynecology are predominantly female, but male physicians in these specialties still make an average of 21% more than their female counterparts. These specialties, among others, will likely see more females in coming years as close to half of the graduates from U.S. medical schools are women. In fact, female graduates outnumbered males in states such as Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Washington. Furthermore, research suggests that female doctors perform better than males—a recent Harvard study showed...

Choosing a Medical Speciality Based on Your Personality

When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I tell them I’m going to be a doctor. Then, I have a mini-existential crisis when I realize I’m 22 years old and almost a full-blown “grown-up.” Usually, after that, they ask me what kind of doctor I want to be. And then I have another crisis because I don’t really know what I’m going to specialize in. Sure, there are certain specialties that I’m drawn to. But, isn’t it too early to tell? And, how am I really supposed to know, considering there’s so many specialties to choose from?   I know, I know, there’s really no need for me to panic. It’s not until your third year of medical school that you actually start rotations, so there’s plenty of time to find the specialty that suits you. But, regardless, I’m still very fascinated by what speciality I’ll end up in, and I often day-dream about the types of illnesses I’ll be treating as a physician.   I’ve asked the doctors I shadowed about what drew them to their specific specialty. One of the answers that really stood out to me was that each speciality has a certain personality type—you’re often drawn to a specific speciality based on whether you possess its distinct personality.   It turns out many people use this personality-specialty match to figure out...

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