State News

District of Columbia | Jul 15, 2021 | News Story | Equity

DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Takes Action to Achieve Social Justice and Equity in Health Insurance Coverage

The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX) Executive Board voted to adopt recommendations from its Social Justice and Health Disparities Working Group, in an effort to stop racism in healthcare, according to DC Health Link. These recommendations are focused on three crucial areas in order to establish practices, structures and policies that can be implemented by health plans on the exchange to (1) expand access to providers and health systems for communities of color, (2) eliminate health outcome disparities for communities of color, and (3) ensure equitable treatment for patients of color in healthcare settings and in the delivery of healthcare services. The recommendations include: requiring cultural competency training for network providers; stratifying quality measures by race, ethnicity and primary language; and providing incentives for both primary care and specialist physicians to practice in underserved areas in DC.

Minnesota | Jul 13, 2021 | Report | Equity

Study Identifies Racial/Ethnic and Language Inequities in Ways Patients Obtain COVID-19 Virus Testing

Patients who initiated COVID-19 testing at a large safety-net health system in Minneapolis were disproportionately white and English-speaking, according to a study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Patients who initiated testing through the emergency department, however, were disproportionately Black, Native American, non-English speaking and had one or more pre-existing conditions. In addition, the study found that testing initiated through telehealth and outpatient encounters was associated with lower rates of subsequent inpatient and intensive care unit care than testing initiated in more care-intensive settings, such as emergency departments. Researchers posit that the inequities point to structural root causes, including barriers to timely testing access, delays in care seeking, difficulty accessing telehealth services and higher rates of pre-existing conditions among patients who require higher levels of care. However, these inequities could also be partially explained by clinician and clinic variations in telehealth use.

Maine | Jul 9, 2021 | News Story | Rural Healthcare

New Maine Law Recognizes Pharmacists as Healthcare Providers

Maine’s Governor signed LD 603 into law, which defines the practice of pharmacy as a provision of healthcare services and recognizes pharmacists as healthcare providers, according to the University of New England. Proponents of the law hope that it will provide more opportunities for pharmacists to provide healthcare services and expand greater access to care for patients, particularly in underserved rural communities.

Minnesota | Jul 7, 2021 | News Story | Equity

New Minnesota Law Seeks to Reduce Maternal Mortality, Address Racial Inequities

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity got an additional $300,000 in state funding to create a model curriculum for antiracism and implicit bias training in hospitals and birthing centers statewide, reports Fox 9 KMSP. The funding comes from the recently passed Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act, which includes other provisions intended to address and better understand disparities in maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. The new law was based on research indicating that more than half of maternal deaths are preventable, and that racism and bias in the healthcare system create disproportionate barriers to high-quality care. 

Maine | Jul 7, 2021 | News Story | Drug Costs

Maine Caps Insulin Costs, Expands Medicaid Dental Coverage; Fails to Rein in Drug Prices

Healthcare advocates are celebrating legislative victories in the Maine Legislature, including a $35 cap on insulin costs and expanding Medicaid coverage for dental services to adults, reports The Press HeraldAdditionally, the legislature passed bills that extend Medicaid coverage twelve months postpartum and sets the minimum wage for direct care workers, such as those who provide home-based healthcare services, to 125 percent of the minimum wage. However, Governor Mills vetoed bills aiming to reduce prescription drug costs that would have outlawed price gouging and required drug manufacturers to justify price increases.

Illinois | Jul 1, 2021 | News Story | Equity

Eight Healthcare Collaboratives Get $95 Million to Reduce Health Disparities

Illinois’ inaugural round of Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives funding has allocated state funds to eight healthcare collaboratives, reports ABC 20. The goal of this influx of funding is to reorient healthcare in the state to reduce healthcare inequities, improve health outcomes, address social determinants of health and improve underserved communities’ access to quality healthcare. This program was set up following the passage of the Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives Public Act 101-650 in March 2021 that sought to develop these collaboratives to invest in underserved communities and increase access to community-based health services.

South Dakota | Jul 1, 2021 | News Story | Price Transparency

South Dakota Enacts Improvements for Telehealth and Price Transparency

Several pieces of South Dakota legislation went into effect July 1, 2021, including telehealth flexibilities and price transparency according to Improved telehealth rules are intended to improve services for rural communities. Price transparency legislation is intended to equip consumers with actual costs for procedures and prescription drugs, as well as real-time information on cost-sharing requirements, according to AARP.

Missouri | Jun 29, 2021 | News Story | Affordability Consumer Voices

Woman Hit with Nearly $2,000 Unexpected Bill for Colon Cancer Screening

A popular home test to screen for colon cancer has come with an unexpected bill for some people - leading to fears they may put off life-saving treatment, reports CBS News. While experts say Cologuard is a good screening tool, some users have faced a high bill, like Missouri resident Lianne Bryant did when she received a bill of $1,900 from the hospital that performed her subsequent colonoscopy, due to her positive Cologuard result. Under the Affordable Care Act, only routine screening tests are covered, and because Bryant's Cologuard result was positive, her colonoscopy was coded as a diagnostic test, which was not fully covered by her insurance. She would have been fully covered had she not used Cologuard first. Experts worry that when people find out their colonoscopies might not be covered, they won't get them. 

Oregon | Jun 29, 2021 | News Story

Oregon Legislature Enacts Telehealth Payment Parity

Oregon lawmakers passed legislation that will require healthcare providers to be reimbursed at the same rate for telehealth services as in-person services, according to the Lund Report. The law, HB 2508, comes during the coronavirus pandemic, when use of telehealth services increased significantly.

Connecticut | Jun 29, 2021 | News Story | Equity

Federal Grant Will Help Tackle Health Disparities in Connecticut

Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS), tasked with reducing health disparities within the state, will receive $3.3 million of a $17 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports NBC Connecticut. The grant money will be spent on work by OHS and community organizations, focusing on reducing maternal and nutritional disparities, food insecurity and overcoming language and transportation barriers. Much of the grant money will go to addressing these issues in communities of color, as people of color experience significant health disparities often caused by social determinants of health.