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Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy

Karen Davenport

Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy at the National Women's Law Center, has focused her career on advocacy, research and public policy development dedicated to improving Americans' access to health care. Before joining NWLC, she worked as a Research Project Director and Lecturer in the George Washington University's Department of Health Policy, and as the Director of Health Policy at the Center for American Progress, where she directed health policy research and advocacy, with a particular focus on health care reform. As a Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she developed and managed national programs dedicated to increasing health insurance coverage for children and families and improving long-term care financing and services for frail elders and people with disabilities. As a Legislative Assistant to Senator Bob Kerrey, she was responsible for staffing the Senator's work on Medicare, Medicaid, public health, welfare and social issues. Her earlier federal experience includes serving as a specialist in Medicaid legislation for the Health Care Financing Administration (now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Davenport earned an MPA from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a BA in political science from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

My Take

A Big Week for Breastfeeding

You may already know that one of the Affordable Care Act’s great new preventive benefits for women is coverage of breastfeeding supports and supplies. Women with health coverage through the new Marketplaces, and many who have coverage through an employer, are now able to get breast pumps and help from a lactation consultant as they learn to breastfeed, deal with breastfeeding problems and, if they choose, return to work – without any out-of-pocket expense! Breastfeeding benefits both moms and babies, and this coverage helps women overcome some of the problems they often encounter as they start breastfeeding or if they go back to work as nursing mothers.

What you may not know is that women in the military and women in military families, who have health coverage through TRICARE, have not been eligible for this new preventive benefit. But this week, just in time for Memorial Day, both houses of Congress have taken big steps towards fixing this problem.


It Works! New Data on Health Insurance and the New Health Care Law

Posted by Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy | Posted on: April 17, 2014 at 09:04 am

If you had any doubt that the new health care law is helping women and their families get health insurance – and given the Chicken Little-level hysteria that seems to still affect critics of the new law, you can be forgiven for harboring a few doubts – a new survey released yesterday should calm those fears. According to Gallup, the uninsured rate for adults in states that have implemented both major coverage components of the Affordable Care Act has fallen, on average, 2.5 percentage points in the first three months of full implementation. These 21 states and the District of Columbia, which expanded coverage through Medicaid and established their own health insurance marketplaces (including those running “partnership” marketplaces), have widened the gap in average rates of uninsurance between themselves and states that have not taken both of these steps.


Health Insurance — A Rite of Spring for 2014

Posted by Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy | Posted on: March 27, 2014 at 08:08 am

The start of spring brings some seasonal maternal responsibilities. My daughter is six, so these tasks include finding the shin guards and cleats that she dumped in a closet after the last soccer game last fall – ideally before the first spring soccer game, not after. Determining if she has outgrown all, or only half, of her warmer-weather clothes. Helping her finally ride her bike with confidence, and without training wheels.

I expect that as kids get older, these springtime responsibilities might change a bit. Maybe I will need to nudge her to keep working on a year-end project or to practice before the spring piano recital. Or to use some caution and common sense during a spring break trip to the beach.


Emergency! Emergency! But does the Oregon Medicaid study really tell us much about emergency department use under Obamacare?

Posted by Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy | Posted on: January 06, 2014 at 09:57 am

Critics have pointed to this week’s study of emergency department use in the Oregon Medicaid program as the latest evidence of the ultimate – if not imminent – failure of health reform. In this examination of Oregonians who won the state’s 2008 health insurance lottery, and were thus able to enroll in Medicaid coverage, researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that newly-insured individuals used emergency departments 40 percent more often than similar, but uninsured, state residents. This conclusion, Obamacare critics allege, undermines a key argument for health reform, particularly for states that have not yet implemented expanded coverage under Medicaid – namely, that improving health coverage will reduce emergency department visits and, in turn, save money.

But not so fast. Leaving aside the absurdity of needing to participate in a lottery to get health coverage – a dehumanizing process that health reform will hopefully banish forever – the Oregon experience represents only one look at emergency department use after a Medicaid eligibility expansion. And this study only looks at the first 18 months after the lottery, which translates to an average of 13 months of coverage. In Massachusetts, which implemented health reform in 2006, emergency department use first grew (or continued to grow consistent with previous trends, depending on which study you look at) and then declined between 5 to 8 percent – with a significant drop in ED visits for problems that could be treated in a doctor’s office. Researchers attribute this decline to the reform’s expansion of coverage.


Talking Turkey and the ACA

Posted by Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy | Posted on: November 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

My immediate family’s Thanksgiving celebration is full of tradition – maybe a little too full. We always gather at my step-sister’s house, and everybody who attends brings the same dish every year. For example, Stephanie has claimed my mother’s sweet potato recipe for the last 15 years. Maybe more. Brian brings the appetizers, but he is always late. Paula always brings a pecan pie, which looks delicious but I am just too full to eat it by the time we get to dessert.

Our conversation can be a little, um, traditional too. For example, we go around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for. In 2010, after passage of the Affordable Care Act earlier that year, I said I was thankful that my daughter would grow up in a country that provides affordable, high-quality health care to everyone, and that she would never need to worry having health coverage. My daughter said she was thankful for her nightgown. (She was three.)

I will be talking about the Affordable Care Act at Thanksgiving this year, too – even before we say what we are thankful for. I will be making sure that my friends who own their own small business know that they might qualify for tax credits to help them with the cost of buying health insurance.