Telehealth visits during March grew significantly from the previous year and approximately half of all telehealth visits were for mental health services, according to a preliminary report on COVID-19 healthcare trends from the Utah Department of Health. Using APCD data, the report shows that medication “days supplied” was 12.3 percent above average in March 2020, with a significant increase for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications. The report also noted a sharp decline in the number of child and adolescent immunizations provided in March 2020 as compared to 2019 trends.
Virginia is one of at least a dozen states that can dock residents’ income tax refunds to pay delinquent medical debts, Kaiser Health News reports. The state collected $68 million in individual debts through the program, a figure that includes medical bills and other types of debt owed to state and local government agencies and state courts, among others. A new state law will prohibit UVA and UVC from taking consumers’ tax refunds unless they can determine that patients aren’t eligible for financial assistance or programs like Medicaid, but concerns about the harmful practice remain.
The Idaho Governor signed an executive order making more than 150 emergency rules enacted since March to address the coronavirus pandemic permanent, reports mHealth Intelligence. Idaho healthcare providers now have permanent access to a wide range of telehealth tools to improve access to care and outcomes. The measures include allowing more freedom of online platforms for providers to use to connect with patients, allowing licensed out-of-state providers to treat Idaho patients and giving physician assistants more responsibilities in care management.
Alabama will receive more than $4.6 million in federal funding to increase the state’s health workforce in rural and underserved communities, reports the Birmingham Business Journal. The funding from HHS is part of a nationwide effort to improve the quality distribution and diversity of health professionals serving in communities across the country. Workforce development has been a significant concern in Alabama’s healthcare sector for many years, but that’s particularly true in rural areas.
The Ohio Department of Health has released a 2020-2022 State Health Improvement Plan, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Agency strategies focus on four broad categories: community conditions; health behaviors; access to care; and mental health and addiction. For example, strategies aimed at improving local access to healthcare providers focus on creating comprehensive and coordinated primary care, a culturally competent workforce in underserved communities and telehealth.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has been awarded $1.5 million to support and expand the Hope4NC program, which connects North Carolinians to mental health supports that help them cope and build resilience during times of crisis. Historically marginalized populations in the state have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis; the Hope4NC program is being intentionally designed to provide essential supports and better links to care for people in these communities. The Hope4NC was repurposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis from it's original state to support behavioral health needs following natural disasters.
Georgia has passed legislation to end the practice of balance billing, according to the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News. The new law requires insurers to cover emergency services a patient receives whether or not the provider participates in the patient’s insurance coverage network.
Expanding Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes would build on the program’s successes and save hundreds of lives every year, according to a report from Alabama Arise. Though more than a million people – mostly children, seniors and those with disabilities – benefit from Alabama Medicaid, 340,000 uninsured and underinsured Alabamians who could gain coverage under Medicaid expansion remain. Expansion would particularly benefit the 65,000 rural Alabamians caught in the health coverage gap, as their rural hospital network is fraying from a lack of healthcare funding and had been significantly impacted by caring for uninsured or underinsured rural populations.
Understanding how prescription drug prices are set will allow both patients and states to make more informed decisions about whether prices are excessive, as well as introduce some rationality and evidence into the healthcare system, according to a new report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. During the 2020 legislative session, West Virginia passed a drug transparency law requiring manufacturers to report prices, and research and development costs and justify price increases. In addition, all health plan insurers in the state are required to report the 25 most frequently prescribed prescription drugs, the percent increase in annual net spending for prescription drugs, and the percent increase in premiums that were attributable to prescription drugs. Authors note that the state could consider expanding the law to include pharmacy benefit managers and appointing a prescription drug affordability board with the power to regulate drug prices.
Utah is implementing an insulin cost savings program that will allow every Utahn to purchase insulin at a 60 percent discount through the state Public Employee Health Plan (PEHP), according to KUTV. PEHP will purchase insulin at a higher rate, but Utahns will only have to pay the wholesale cost—about a 60 percent discount. The law also caps health insurance copays for insulin at $30 for a 30-day supply. Additionally, this law enables pharmacists to dispense a 90-day supply of insulin on an emergency basis for patients having difficulties with their prescription.