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After learning that nearly three-fourths of Kentucky adults reported having had one or more problems affording health care in the past year, two Democrats and one Republican in the legislature found they had much to agree on when it came to finding ways to address this problem, according to an article in Kentucky Health News. The lawmakers were part of a legislative panel at a Kentucky Voices for Health forum to discuss the results of the new healthcare affordability survey conducted by Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub. The survey found that the 72 percent of Kentucky adults who struggled to pay for health care in the past year reported that their affordability issues largely centered on not being able to afford insurance, delaying or foregoing care because of cost, and struggling to pay medical bills. One in four participants said they had been contacted by a collection agency. The regional results showed that 80 percent of adults in Eastern Kentucky said they had had affordability burdens in the past year, the highest rate of any region.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Maryland’s requests to continue and expand its unique all-payer model, according to a Modern Healthcare article. Under the model, the state is exempt from typical Medicare regulations and has the unique ability to set its own rates for hospitals. Starting Jan. 1. 2019, doctors' offices and nursing homes can voluntarily participate in the program as well. Through this model, Maryland officials aim to coordinate care better across hospital and non-hospital settings, including mental health and long-term care services.
According to the Observer-Reporter, a Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council report found that acute care hospitals statewide experienced a decrease in the amount they spent on uncompensated care in fiscal year 2017. However, the four hospitals in Washington and Greene counties had mixed marks on uncompensated care, which is uncollected debt and charity care. That was the fourth consecutive year, PHC4 noted, the percentage fell.
More than a third of Pennsylvania hospitals lost money running their facilities in Fiscal Year 2017, a 30 percent increase from the previous year, according to The Morning Call. But statewide hospitals are doing relatively well--with combined profits of $2.4 billion. Hospitals are under pressure to cut costs and implement programs that manage the health of their local communities, which can mean decreased payments and increased costs. These demands are particularly hard on smaller and rural hospitals, according to the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.
The University of Kentucky has received almost $5 million to expand and improve a program to help pregnant women with opioid dependence problems before, during and after delivery, according to an article in Lexington Herald Leader. The Perinatal Assistance and Treatment Home (PATHways) program is currently based in Lexington, helping pregnant women with medication, peer support and health services to reduce the number of babies born with an opioid addiction. The program continues after birth with peer counseling and health services. Kentucky has one of the highest rates in the nation of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a rate that has climbed from 46 babies in 2001 to 1,115 in 2016, according to hospital discharge data collected annually by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Between 2014 and spring 2017, more than 150 women received treatment through PATHways. Of those, 77 percent were admitted to labor and delivery without any illicit drugs in their systems.
A new report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy suggests the state could add close to $100 million a year to its budget by modernizing and increasing the soda tax, according to an article in The State Journal. The new revenue could go to fund Medicaid, the Public Employees Insurance Agency or even programs aimed at preventing childhood obesity. While lower-income populations may be disproportionately affected by a soda tax, they are also disproportionately affected by overweight, obesity, and resulting health conditions. If the revenues are earmarked to be put back into these same communities, the results will ultimately be progressive. To balance the budget in 2017, Gov. Jim Justice unveiled a health initiative that, among other things, would have updated the state’s soda tax to be 1 cent per ounce of soda. Lawmakers balanced the budget, with its $500 million hole, without signing on to Justice’s plan.
Franklin County Public Health’s launched a new Community Cessation Initiative that offers free counseling to help residents kick the tobacco habit, according to a news article in The Columbus Dispatch. The three-year Community Cessation Initiative, referred to as CCI, will place special emphasis on people who are pregnant, have low socioeconomic status or have mental-health and substance-abuse disorders. But any resident can participate, and advocates hope to reach about 26,250 people, or 15 percent, of the roughly 175,000 tobacco-users in the county. The partners will provide CCI with contact information for people who want to quit. Each will be given a phone call within 72 hours, asked a few questions and referred to a provider. Once that referral is made, the provider will contact the tobacco user to begin treatment. Participants will be followed after treatment to offer support and help with any relapses.
A new report released this week reveals that the cost of health insurance for employers in Colorado is increasing faster than the national average — and that employers are often pushing that added cost onto their workers, according to an article in The Denver Post. People who get health insurance through their work generally haven’t had to deal with the extreme price increases that have impacted people who buy insurance themselves. But the new reports show they are still being squeezed — just more slowly. Employers have increasingly pushed higher premiums and deductibles onto workers, encouraged greater use of telemedicine and switched to limited networks of doctors, or, in some cases, switched insurance companies altogether.
New legislation in Iowa overhaul’s the state’s mental health care delivery system, according to a story in STAT and the Sioux City Journal. The legislation mandates the creation of critical access centers for people experiencing immediate mental health crisis, as well as establishing a mental health hotline for people with severe and persistent mental health issues. While the legislation is a step forward, there has been no new funding approved for the legislation and the states 14 regional delivery systems are expected to pay for the services in the short term.
Every year, physicians are required to participate in the continuing medical education program, advertised as a way to keep doctors up to date on new findings and treatments for various healthcare needs. Although these requirements sound like a good idea many doctors find that some of the tests add no value to themselves or their patients, and some believe they are contributing to the rise of healthcare costs. According to an article in Alabama Today, one test that has come under fire lately is the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) test. According to The Hospitalist, the MOC program could cost $5.7 billion in physicians’ time and fees over the next decade.