Half of Pennsylvania residents struggled with healthcare costs in the past year and nearly two thirds were worried about affording healthcare in the future, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, Altarum Healthcare Value Hub’s 2020 Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) found that to reduce healthcare costs, 20 percent of Pennsylvania adults skipped going to the doctor, a procedure or a recommended test and 22 percent skipped medication doses, cut pills in half or avoided filling a prescription. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated concerns about healthcare costs, with 60 percent of Pennsylvania residents worried about being able to afford COVID-19 treatment if they need it
Connecticut’s governor unveiled two proposals aimed at reducing the cost of healthcare, including an annual tax on insurance carriers to fund additional insurance subsidies and a plan to limit yearly increases in prescription drug costs, reports The CT Mirror. The fee on insurers would generate approximately $50 million annually to subsidize the cost of insurance for people purchasing coverage through the state’s exchange, but could also be used for other causes, including raising the Medicaid eligibility level or a reinsurance program. The Governor also proposed to limit yearly hikes in prescription drug prices to the rate of inflation plus 2 percent. Drug manufacturers exceeding that amount would be fined and revenue from the penalties would be used to subsidize health coverage.
AARP has partnered with Illinois racial justice groups to launch a “disrupt disparities” effort across the state, reports State of Reform. The multi-year effort will address the disproportionate number of older Black, Latino and Asian American seniors who have died of COVID-19 in Illinois and will work with state legislators to address this and other issues. Another crucial equity issue facing Illinoisans is access to broadband internet. According to AARP, more than a third of Black and Latino seniors in the state do not have internet access at home, leaving this vulnerable group more disconnected. Economic security is another issue AARP hopes to address, explaining that helping seniors pay off their debts will allow seniors of color to be more economically secure.
Healthy Alaskans released a 2020 scorecard analyzing the state’s performance when it comes to improving residents’ health, according to State of Reform. The scorecard shows that Alaska met its target or improved on 12 of its 25 health goals, including reducing its cancer mortality rate, increasing the percent of adolescents who haven’t used tobacco in the past 30 days and reducing the rate of “unique substantiated child maltreatment.” The state made little progress on other measures, like suicide mortality rates, mental health indicators and obesity rates. At the same time, the state released an updated health improvement plan, Healthy Alaskans 2030, which establishes health priorities and objectives for the decade to come.
Although the State Health Department directed providers months ago to report COVID-19 vaccine race and ethnicity data, 36 percent of race and 40.9 percent of ethnicity data are missing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Many providers, including Pennsylvania’s largest health system, are still not collecting and reporting this data. Based on available data, Black people make up 3 percent of the state’s population but only 0.4 percent of vaccine recipients, while Latino people make up 8 percent of the population but 3 percent of vaccine recipients. Incomplete race and ethnicity data make it difficult to comprehensively track and address disparities in vaccine distribution.
Oregon’s healthcare workforce does not match the diversity of the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) biennial Oregon Health Care Workforce Needs Assessment report, which shows that the Hispanic/Latino, African American/Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native providers are underrepresented in most licensed healthcare professions. OHA also released its evaluation of the Health Care Provider Incentive Program, which is designed to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the healthcare workforce.
The Michigan Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force reduced COVID-19-related cases and mortality among Black residents and may serve as a model for other states, according to a case study from the National Governors Association. The authors identified some of the task force’s best practices, including: establishing clear objectives with specific metrics; ensuring cross-sectoral collaboration and diversity within the task force; and enabling leadership and state leaders who are committed to work and provide the right mix of expertise to minimize staff fatigue and stress. Michigan’s Task Force and Governor also contributed to reductions in health inequities by: distributing six million free masks; declaring racism a public health crisis; requiring implicit bias training for all state employees; and improving the quality of data reporting on racial disparities.
As part of the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan, New Jersey’s Medicaid program is adopting several new initiatives to improve maternal and infant health within the state, the Governor’s office reports. New Jersey’s Medicaid program will expand coverage to include doula care; will no longer pay for non-medical early elective deliveries; and will require obstetrical providers, nurse midwives or other licensed healthcare professionals to complete a perinatal risk assessment form during a beneficiary’s first prenatal visit to help identify trends in risk factors. These initiatives also contribute to the Strategic Plan’s aims of combating the state’s maternal and infant health mortality crisis by reducing racial disparities in these areas.
Colorado launched pop-up vaccination sites in underserved areas in an attempt to eliminate the racial and economic disparities in COVID vaccine distribution, reports the Colorado Sun. The goal of the program is to reach underserved communities where they are and reduce barriers to vaccination, such as online vaccination appointment portals and inoculation sites that are far away. So far, Colorado has operated 18 of these health equity clinics, administering thousands of doses to Black and Hispanic Coloradoans who have much lower vaccination rates than their white counterparts. The Governor also says the state needs to build vaccine trust among these communities by developing ambassadors and leading by example.
Lehigh County could have saved roughly $1.4 million for prescription drugs in 2019, reports Stat+. The Office of the Controller’s report found that rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers were frequently pocketed by the insurance company as profit, rather than credited to the county. In addition, the office identified 200 prescription drugs that were available at lower prices from competitors. The office recommended pursuing comparative prescription drug pricing for the 200 drugs and receiving the full value of prescription drug and medical claim rebates from the insurance company to save the county money.