State News Roundup - September-October 2022


Federal Government Approves Medicaid Housing Intervention Program in Arizona
By Hailey Mensik | Healthcare Dive | Oct. 17, 2022

The federal government approved Arizona’s 1115 demonstration targeted at expanding access to coverage and addressing nutrition and housing needs, report Healthcare Dive. The program will focus on making sure Medicaid beneficiaries have adequate housing with resources to help them transition from temporary to more stable living situations.


California Medicaid Covers Housing and Food for Select Beneficiaries
By Leila Seidman l Los Angeles Times l Oct. 19, 2022

The California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal program, or Medi-Cal/CalAIM, aims to address social determinants of health by directly providing resources beyond healthcare, such as including housing and food, according to the Los Angeles Times. An extension of the Medi-Cal state Medicaid program, Medi-Cal/CalAIM aims to reduce health disparities for low-income beneficiaries, including homeless individuals struggling with serious mental illness or physical needs, as well as aiming to save the state money in the long term.

Focus Groups with Black Californians Discuss Health Systems
By Linda Cummings l California Health Care Foundation l Oct. 4, 2022

The Listening to Black Californians study found that many Black Californian respondents were intentional about their health and have a regular provider, but many have been treated unfairly by healthcare providers because of their race or ethnicity, according to the California Health Care Foundation. In addition, respondents reported avoiding care due to concerns about being treated unfairly or with disrespect. In terms of solutions, respondents reflected on strengthening patient-provider relationships, increasing Black representation among healthcare leaders and providers and expanding community-based education, among other initiatives.


Access to Affordable Health Insurance Remains Elusive for Farmers
By Patrick Skahill l Connecticut Public Radio l Sept. 26, 2022

Nearly 30 percent of farmers, surveyed by the New Connecticut Farmers Alliance, describe their health insurance as “unaffordable” or “very unaffordable,” reports Connecticut Public Radio. The article also explains that only 5 percent of farmers or farm workers surveyed in Connecticut receive health insurance through their employer. The challenges surrounding affordable health insurance negatively impact health outcomes and financial security, discourages potential farmers from pursuing the profession and may lead to underinsurance in the population.

More than Half of Connecticut Residents with Private Insurance had a High Deductible Health Plan in 2020
By Ellen Andrews l Connecticut News Junkie l Oct. 6, 2022

More than half of Connecticut residents with private insurance are enrolled in a high deductible health plan, according to the Connecticut News Junkie. Patients covered by high deductible plans are one-third times more likely to have medical debt, and their debts average $4,000 higher, than people without high deductibles. Medical debt impacts Connecticut residents across the socioeconomic demographic—the  Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which operates a charity fund for individuals struggling with medical debt in the state, reports that the majority of their applicants receive insurance coverage through their employer but are underinsured at the time of receiving care.

78 Percent of CT Residents Worried about Healthcare Affordability
By Jessica Bravo l The Connecticut Mirror l Oct. 21, 2022

Nearly four in five Connecticut residents are concerned about healthcare affordability, reports the Connecticut Mirror. In addition to this statistic, the survey also demonstrated that, among those surveyed, the issue of affordability extends across the political aisle—68 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of residents who identified as neither party agreed the healthcare system needed change.


Illinois Awards Grant to Eliminate Racial Healthcare Disparities
By Tiffani Jackson l State Journal-Register l Oct. 21, 2022

Leaders in Illinois are working to eliminate racial healthcare disparities through a new program and cultural bias training, reports the State Journal-Register. The Illinois Department of Public Health has awarded grants totaling $3.7 million to organizations working to address health inequities, many of which were brough to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond improving access to vaccines, some hospitals have adopted cultural bias training and equity, diversity and inclusion teams to help individuals better navigate the healthcare environment and work to reverse disparities. Hospitals and community groups within the state acknowledge that cultural and language barriers must be addressed to better serve their patients and ensure equitable access to care, and hope that these efforts will be led by those involved in their communities.


Indiana Has Seventh Highest Hospital Costs of All States
By Violet Comber-Willen l WFYI Indianapolis l Oct. 4, 2022

The 2022 RAND 4.0 study found that Indiana has the seventh highest hospital costs, relative to Medicare prices, of all states measured, according to WFYI Indianapolis. Around the time of the study, Indiana legislators issued a letter to healthcare providers and insurers stating they would likely take steps to reduce healthcare costs in the next session if the providers and insurers do not make efforts to do so.


Kansas Uninsured Rate Now Higher than National Average—Gaps in Coverage Highest Among Working Age Population, Diverse Groups
By Rachel Mipro l Kansas Reflector l Sept. 19, 2022

Uninsurance rates in Kansas have not changed since 2019, despite nationwide decreases across the country, reports the Kansas Reflector. Kansas now has a higher uninsurance rate than the national average rate for the first time in years. Racial disparities in coverage permeate the state—health insurance divides in Kansas showed the greatest gaps in coverage for people of color and working adults, especially regarding Hispanic and Black Kansans.


Maine’s Progress in Improving the Affordability of Small Business Health Insurance
By Jeanne M. Lambrew | Health Affairs Forefront | Oct. 19, 2022

The average health insurance premium for small business will fall by 0.8 percent from 2022 to 2023, the first such reduction since 2001, according to Health Affairs Forefront. The state has taken several steps to reduce costs, including a 1332 State Innovation Waiver to merge the individual and small group market and extend reinsurance to small businesses purchasing through the merged market.


After Slow Start, Prescription Drug Panel is Poised to Offer Recommendations on Prices
By Bruce DePuyt l Maryland Matters l Sept. 12, 2022

Beginning in September, Maryland residents will have the opportunity to present to the Prescription Drug Affordability Board how they’ve been impacted by the cost of medications, as the board prepares to present their ideas in the coming months, reports Maryland Matters. In 2019, Maryland lawmakers launched an effort to force down the price of prescription drugs by creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, making Maryland the first state to do this. However, after three years, the board’s initial mandate remains narrow—to determine which medications cost too much, then to set up a legally defensible method of capping the amount that state and local government health plans can be forced to pay to provide these medications to employees. There is hope, however, now that a funding source has been identified, an executive director hired and a Stakeholder Council put in place to provide community and industry input..

First-in-the-Nation Legislation Requiring Health Exchange to Operate as State Health Data Utility
By Business Wire l Sept. 21, 2022

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2022, Maryland’s state-designated health information exchange (HIE) connecting healthcare providers and the Maryland Department of Health will have authority to operate as a health data utility (HDU), reports Business Wire. This is the first legislation of its kind to be signed in the U.S. As such, the HIE will be required to provide data in real-time to individuals and organizations involved in the treatment and care coordination of patients and to public health officials to support public health goals. The law also required the Maryland Department of Health, nursing homes, electronic health networks and prescription drug dispensers to provide data to the HIE. Experts note that state designation is key for allowing HIEs to clarify, defragment and secure individual health data before sharing it with the state health department – it also allows enhanced partnership with state public health departments to use data to guide, elevate and ultimately enhance outcomes of public health interventions and state-specific health equity goals.


Montana May Be Moving Away From its Innovating Plan for Setting Hospital Prices for Public Workers
By Katheryn Houghton l Stat News l Oct. 27, 2022

Montana’s reference-based pricing in their public employee health plan, which effectively set prices for all services across the state, has saved the state millions since implementation six years prior. Notwithstanding its success, Montana legislators have announced that they are shifting to a new strategy, reports Stat News. The new model will allow private insurers to administer the public employee health plan beginning next year. Opponents of the strategy allege that the contract was awarded through an illegal bidding process and that it could cause healthcare costs to rise for Montanans.

New York

New York Doubles Spending to Diversify Physician Workforce
By Nick Reisman l Spectrum News l Oct. 14, 2022

New York state is doubling its spending to expand the physician workforce to include more people of color, bringing total efforts to $2.4 million, reports Spectrum News. The effort, first launched in 2017, has had moderate success, but just 12 percent of physicians are Black or Hispanic, despite compromising 30 percent of the state’s overall population. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted health inequities, which rallied support for this initiative. The program is meant to encourage students from diverse communities to pursue jobs in medicine, get accepted to and complete medical school in the state. Experts believe initiatives such as these will help provide trusted voices and more cultural understanding within the healthcare community, and, thus, improve equitable outcomes.

North Carolina

State’s Free and Charitable Clinics Chart Vision for Health Equity
By Rachel Crumpler l NC Health News l Sept. 29, 2022

Upon realizing that their white patients fared better than patients of color, the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics launched a new initiative focused on health equity in 2021, reports NC Health News. The initiative brought together a 29-member Health Equity Task Force composed of association staff, board members and clinic leaders for discussions about health equity. As a result, many of the member clinics undertook intentional equity work, often focusing on narrowing gaps in access to vaccines and COVID testing and treatment. The next steps for the Association include creating a long-term task force focused on health equity, rather than one that is time limited.

No Internet, No Telehealth: Rural North Carolina Residents Struggle to Connect with Doctors Virtually
By Carolina Public Press l NC Health News l Oct. 22, 2022

Across North Carolina, an estimated 4 million residents don’t have access to reliable broadband service, reports NC Health News, which hinders their ability to access telemedicine. This issue particularly affects rural residents, many of whom live in communities that tend to suffer most from a low supply of health professionals. Although telehealth is often promoted as the solution to increasing access to healthcare, rural residents of North Carolina without reliable internet are often left behind, stymying attempts to improve access, equity and outcomes. In addition, Census data shows that roughly a quarter of people in Western North Carolina’s rural counties are 65 or older–one of the main goals of the state’s Office of Rural Health is to ensure digital literacy and internet connectivity for this population.


Oklahoma DHS Implements 25 Percent Provider Rate Increase for Disability and Senior Services
By Carmen Forman l The Oklahoman l Oct. 4, 2022

Oklahoma has approved and is in the process of implementing a 25 percent rate increase for providers who work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reports The Oklahoman. Policymakers claim that the impetus for the increase is the 13-year wait list for intellectual and developmental disability services in the state, which lead to poor health outcomes and an increased reliance on private and unpaid caregiving across Oklahoma–which can be expensive and time consuming for families. DHS bumped its provider reimbursement rates to increase pay for a variety of medical professionals, including nurses, speech therapists, group home employees and direct care staffers who help developmentally disabled Oklahomans and those who help low-income seniors.


Pennsylvania Law Will Simplify Health Insurance Coordination
By Brett Sholtis l WSKG l Oct. 28, 2022

The Pennsylvania legislature has passed a law intended to simplify how healthcare providers work with insurers, according to WSKG. The law bars prior authorization for most emergency department services. Insurers must state what they will authorize, and when insurers deny something, they must give written notice which patients can then appeal.


Knoxville’s Black Community Endured Deeply Rooted Racism – Now There is Medical Debt
By Noam N. Levey l Kaiser Health News l Oct. 28, 2022

People of color shoulder most of the medical debt throughout Knoxville, Tennessee, explains Kaiser Health News. Systemic racism and a history of segregation in areas such as East Knoxville have manifested in significantly worse health outcomes and higher rates of medical debt in communities of color; for example, more than 30 percent of the residents in the communities surveyed have a medical bill on their credit record, compared to fewer than 10 percent in white suburbs. Many of the gains in health insurance coverage due to the Affordable Care Act have remained out of reach in Knoxville.