About Lupus

Important Updates for the Lupus Community

Usually my column answers questions that you readers write in. But this month, I’d like to point out how two policy changes are helping lupus patients.

You may not immediately see the connection between sunscreen and affordable healthcare! What could they possibly have in common? Both are undergoing policy changes that are important for the lupus community to know.

Affordable Health Insurance

As of July 1, 2011, premiums for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) have dropped in many states by up to 40%. Before the PCIP was created in 2010 by President Obama insurers could deny coverage for someone with a serious chronic illness like lupus, asthma, diabetes and cancer.

While PCIP has made it easier for people with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance, its cost has been a source of criticism; premiums can be upwards of $400 - $600 a month!

Now, in addition to the drop in cost, PCIP no longer requires proof of having been denied coverage. Instead, you need to submit a letter by your doctor stating that you have a medical condition. Unfortunately, the Plan still requires a six-month period of being uninsured.

Find out if your state is affected by this new policy. The price decrease is only mandated in states where the program is federally run. If you need help enrolling in PCIP or finding affordable lupus care in your region, contact me and I will help connect you to your local lupus chapter.

New Sunscreen Regulations

Summer is at its height in the U.S., which for people with lupus means taking extra care to apply sunscreen to prevent flares. But there’s some new scoop on sunscreen. After long consideration, the FDA has put out new rules on sunscreen:

Currently sunscreen manufacturers are only required to protect against UVB rays, which cause sunburn. The problem is that UVA as well as UVB rays can lead to cancer and promote flares in people with lupus. The level of protection against UVB rays is indicated on the sunscreen by the SPF label.

Some sunscreens are labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning they offer protection against both kinds of sun rays, but there is no current standard for what that means, exactly, for UVA rays. The new regulations will require manufacturers to meet certain standards for UVA rays, which will help us feel more confident that we are really getting proper protection from both types of rays.  Sunscreen manufacturers must implement the new regulations within the next year or two depending on their size.

For tips on sun protection read “Lupus and Your Skin.” You might also consider checking out clothing from stores who claim UV protection like Uniqlo, Coolibar and Sun Precautions.

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