Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore organized a virtual Zoom meeting Monday where she and several panelists discussed women’s health care issues, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care access.
Dr. Charmaine Chibar, pediatrics director for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County said while telemedicine allowed doctors and patients to stay connected, virtual visits weren’t as effective in ensuring patients came in for annual screenings.
“We have had, unfortunately, less cervical cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, colon cancer screenings in the past year due to the lack of office visits during the pandemic,” Chibar said.
“While we were still ordering tests, sometimes we weren’t making that in-person contact to emphasize how important those visits were, that touchpoint to say, ‘Hey, did you go get that exam done? Hey, did you remember to do that?’ So we did see a decrease in our screening last year and we are playing catch-up this year.”
Skidmore also posed questions on a variety of topics regarding abortion access, contraceptive options and hygiene products, among others. The full discussion is available on the Representative’s Facebook page.
Takeata King Pang, executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Florida, said her organization supported legislation introduced last year which would have required feminine hygiene products to be available for free in public school restrooms. Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Michael Grieco sponsored those bills in the Senate and House, respectively.
While the legislation failed, Pang said her group is optimistic the outcome will be different next year.
“We do have hopes that it can be pushed through in the next legislative cycle,” Pang said Monday. “Talking to local school districts (and) school board members, there is definitely an understanding that these products are needed.”
Skidmore and Democrats did see a win last Session, as Republicans joined a measure to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers.
“We were so pleased to extend the maternal health Medicaid benefits from two months to 12 months in this last Legislative Session,” Skidmore said. That measure was pushed in response to the federal American Rescue Plan, which provided federal funds for states looking to approve such an expansion.
Skidmore and her panelists also looked to push a message to women to ensure they’re having a proactive dialogue with their doctors.
“I tell my patients all the time, ‘You know your body better than I do, and if you’re experiencing something that I can’t explain, then maybe I need to dig a little further,’” Chibar said. But it should always be a conversation.”
The panelists specifically pointed out shortcomings in care for Black women, as some doctors still believe myths about those women not feeling as much pain as White women. Skidmore said patients should speak up when something is wrong, regardless of race, citing her own health care scare when Skidmore’s own signs of a heart attack were originally misdiagnosed as hot flashes.
“You know your bodies best, and you know when something’s wrong,” Skidmore said. “And so I encourage everyone to really advocate for themselves on those issues.”
Skidmore also promised to continue advocating for the women’s right to choose, as Florida approve legislation last Session requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion, unless the parent-child relationship is abusive.
“When I am in the Legislature and we have an abortion issue, I make a point of saying three times in a row, ‘Abortion is health care. Abortion is health care. Abortion is health care.’ And it makes a lot of my colleagues really crazy when I say that,” Skidmore said.
“It’s something that a lot of us really believe, and it’s something that a lot of folks don’t think is health care.”
Skidmore rejoined the House with a win in House District 81 last November. She previously represented parts of Palm Beach County from 2006-2010. So far, Skidmore is unopposed for reelection heading into next year.