The Minnesota governor’s office announced the publication of vaccination data by race and ethnicity, made possible through a partnership between the state and the Minnesota Electronic Health Record Consortium, reports KSTP. The data will inform additional targeted strategies to ensure equitable distribution of vaccine to Minnesotans disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as a result of systemic inequities. There is hope that the ongoing partnership will also provide the infrastructure needed for future public health crises.
Utah’s governor signed the Mental Health Access Amendments into law, which now require remote mental health visits to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits, reports State of Reform. This law makes permanent some of the temporary telehealth measures enacted during the coronavirus pandemic. Utah now joins the ranks of only a few states who have permanently enacted payment parity for mental health visits.
Although hospitals must publicly release their prices in response to a new federal requirement, this information is often difficult for consumers to navigate, reported AboutHealthTransparency.org. To help Philadelphia residents navigate price comparison information, the Philadelphia Inquirer compiled a database with prices for more than 70 common services for 29 hospitals and 43 insurance companies. This revealed wide cost variations for medical services that can be scheduled in advance. For example, the price of a hip or knee replacement in the Philadelphia area ranged from $12,234 to $60,666.
The New Jersey governor announced members to the state’s Healthcare Affordability Advisory Group. The committee, established by executive order, is comprised of members across hospitals, providers, employers, consumer advocates and policy leaders. The Group’s objective is to advise the Healthcare Affordability Interagency Workgroup on the development and implementation of healthcare cost growth benchmarks. The benchmarks provide an opportunity for increased oversight and accountability.
John often lacks benefits or health insurance because he is self-employed and frequently works in construction, landscaping or general maintenance work, reports That's Medicaid. Now in his early 60s, John was living with a hernia for years, until it became strangulated and sent him to the emergency room and into surgery. After being discharged, he feared being set back by the cost of the operation, but a local nonprofit helped him apply for Medicaid. John will be on Medicare in a few years, but Medicaid is providing him with peace of mind in the meantime and relief from otherwise large costs for his surgery.
While health insurance is intended to protect families from high healthcare costs, gaps in that protection remain for Massachusetts residents who are insured all year, reports the Center for Health Information and Analysis. Results from the Massachusetts Health Insurance Survey reveal that in 2019, one in seven residents (15%) who were insured all year had problems paying or were unable to pay their or their families’ medical bills over the previous 12 months. Though the type of problem medical bills ran the full gamut of services (like medical tests, procedures or prescription drugs), nearly half of residents reported problems with bills for dental care, which is not typically covered by insurance plans.
Access Health CT, Connecticut’s official health insurance marketplace, published a report summarizing findings from a data-grounded exercise designed to identify the needs and opportunities of Connecticut communities and develop recommendations to address health disparities in the state. Recommendations include reducing the cost of care and improving insurance coverage; implementing bias and cultural competency training to help providers become better attuned to implicit biases and develop skills to address them; supporting the work of Community Health Workers or Care Coordinators as “super navigators;” and centralizing data to make information more accessible/enhance reporting to better support whole person health.
In 2018 Colorado hospitals were more expensive, had higher costs, and reported higher profit margins than any other state, according to AboutHealthTransparency.org. A financial analysis conducted for the Colorado Business Group on Health using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that Colorado hospitals had an average profit margin of 15.6%, which is the highest in the nation. At the same time, smaller rural hospitals had significantly lower profit margins and even lost money. A major contributing factor to the state’s high prices is the heavy concentration of hospital power into a few health systems.
A woman in Indian Trail, North Carolina, went to an in-network hospital for surgery five times in 2020, thinking she was covered for anesthesia services, reports WBTV 3. When she received a bill from Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center several months later, however, it claimed that she owed Providence Anesthesiology Associates $15,744.58 and her insurance, UnitedHealthcare, only covered $782.42. The patient found a statement on UnitedHealthcare's online portal showing that inpatient hospital stays include services for anesthesiologists; however, on it's website, the Center indicates that UnitedHealthcare terminated their contract in March 2020. This means that when the patient went in for surgery, no one told her she was no longer covered for anesthesia services, even though she went through a pre-approval process for each surgery.
In June 2020, the Nebraska Health Information Initiative, Nebraska’s statewide health information exchange (HIE), implemented behavioral health data, such as social determinants of health, into the HIE, according to EHR Intelligence. The Nebraska HIE partnered with a vendor network of social services organizations to create Unite Nebraska, which aimed to connect health and social care providers to enhance care coordination and delivery across the state. With this partnership, Nebraskans can access nutrition services, employment and benefits, and housing through community-based organizations. The two groups intend to break down existing barriers between clinical and social care providers, enabling them to provide care with trackable outcomes data.