Alabama typically falls low on lists ranking health in the U.S., and the Black Belt region of the state has the highest level of disparities, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. These 18 counties are home to a large population of Black Alabamians who have few healthcare options and high poverty rates. To address identified environmental hazards that are a contributor to health, the University of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Health are launching a program to provide free home inspections and solutions to 150 low-income homes in the Black Belt. Inspectors look for environmental hazards such as indoor air quality, mold, pets, carbon monoxide, lead and asbestos, and the program will supply repairs for these issues up to $10,000 per household.
Roughly half of Californians are skipping or delaying care due to cost, according to the 2022 CHCF California Health Policy Survey. Among those who delayed care, nearly half reported their conditions worsened as a result. In addition, one-fourth had trouble paying medical bills, especially those with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Colorado residents can now indicate that they are uninsured and interested in finding out if they quality for free or low-cost health coverage on their tax returns, according to Connect for Health Colorado. Residents who do so can qualify for a special enrollment period for coverage on Colorado’s marketplace or they can be connected to coverage on Colorado’s Medicaid program, as part of the state’s effort to reduce the uninsured rate.
Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center has sued Hartford HealthCare and its subsidiaries, including Hartford Hospital, reports CT Mirror. Saint Francis claims that Hartford HealthCare is trying to create a monopoly on hospital services by acquiring physician networks, particularly cardiologists, and demanding that they refer patients only to Hartford HealthCare. The lawsuit claims that as Hartford HealthCare acquired physician practices, they threatened and intimidated physicians who don’t comply with its “dictates.” The lawsuit also claims that other hospitals in the region suffer due to Hartford HealthCare’s “anticompetitive conduct.”
Idaho’s governor signed a teacher health insurance bill into law, aiming to extend better health insurance benefits to teachers across the state, reports Idaho Press. The law creates a fund for school districts that choose to join the state’s health plan and sets a path for the state to increase its contribution for teacher health insurance premiums by approximately $4,000 per teacher, such that school districts can expand family coverage and lower out-of-pocket costs for teachers.
A group of retired Illinois educators is suing the state over what they say is a diminishment of promised benefits, reports Center Square. The state is reducing what taxpayers pay for retired teachers’ healthcare by around $100 million per year, starting in July 2022. The group believes that reduced state contribution would mean increased costs for retired teachers and claims that their actuary has said that the fund would be depleted in anywhere from one to four years.
Indiana's nonprofit hospitals are charging prices well above the national average and producing profit margins far above other states, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial. Indiana University Health and other large nonprofit hospitals in particular are charging far above the national average, while small, independent and rural hospitals are charging below the national average. State legislators have called for Indiana hospitals and insurers to present a plan that will reduce hospital prices to the national average within three years, otherwise they will pursue legislation to reduce prices.
Medicaid expansion in Louisiana was associated with decreased travel distance to healthcare providers, according to a study in Health Affairs. The authors studied this relationship among continuously enrolled Medicaid beneficiaries from 2015-2017, with Medicaid expansion occurring in July 2016. Distance traveled decreased across eight different types of services, ranging from −3.46 miles for general practices to −0.70 miles for specialty care. Black enrollees living in nonmetropolitan areas experienced the greatest decline in travel distance, with more than nine fewer miles traveled for primary care services. The authors argue that Medicaid expansion can be a tool to address racial and geographic disparities in healthcare access.
Maine’s governor announced the launch of a pilot project to mail 125,000 free COVID-19 tests directly to the homes of Maine residents most in need, according to the Office of the Governor. The state is partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation to provide 25,000 Maine households five at-home rapid tests for free. Households in rural ZIP codes and ZIP codes that are the most socially vulnerable, based the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index, are eligible for the free tests.
The state will merge the Affordable Care Act insurance markets for individuals and small groups to create more stable pricing for health coverage, reports The Portland Press Herald. State officials say that Maine will be first in the nation to combine the two markets into a subsidized reinsurance program, with the goal of promoting more stability in the market. The merger will go into effect in 2023.
The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission unanimously voted to issue a performance improvement plan to Mass General Brigham, reports Modern Healthcare. Mass General Brigham is the largest health system in the state and has spent $293 million in excess of Massachusetts’ cost growth benchmark from 2014 to 2019. The main driver of this spending growth was prices and its payer mix, rather than utilization. This is the first time the Health Policy Commission has used this power, and the system has 45 days to provide a performance improvement plan, request a waiver or apply for an extension.
Michigan's governor signed a series of pharmacy benefit management (PBM) reforms into law, according to Fierce Healthcare. The legislation prohibits PBMs from preventing pharmacists from telling consumers it's less expensive to purchase drugs out-of-pocket, and will require PBMs to file transparency reports telling consumers about the backend costs and profits of their medications, among other provisions.
The New Mexico legislature will hold a hearing on uninsured patients' hospital charges following the passage of HM 36, according to NM Together for Healthcare. The legislation also asks the Human Services Department to report to the legislature on how hospitals are using public funds designated for the care of low-income, uninsured patients.
A network of community health centers in upstate New York has started using a mobile medical unit to help remote patients access care, reports HealthLeaders Media. The Hudson Headwaters Health Network rolled out its first primary care van shortly before winter in 2021, with scheduled stops in three small communities, and has since added a fourth stop. The mobile unit addresses a growing problem in rural areas, where healthcare providers are scarce and health insurance rates are low. The network worked with each community to find a good location for the van, to allow visibility and easy access for patients, as well as Wi-Fi access. During the pandemic, the van has become an important resource, allowing access to testing and some vaccinations.
None of the 12 hospitals analyzed in New York City and Long Island were in full compliance with federal price transparency regulations, reports the Gothamist. A recent report from Patient Right Advocate reveals that just 14 percent of the 1,000 hospitals surveyed across the U.S. were in full compliance with the regulations. While many New York City hospitals complied with certain aspects of the new federal rule mandating hospital price transparency, many have left out certain key information. Some hospitals, like Mount Sinai, left out its discounted cash prices, but included a complete list of rates it had negotiated with health plans, while others missed the mark by a lot more. Numerous hospitals in New York City have not posted the rates that they charge insurers, while some included negotiated rates for just some insurers, but left others out.
In North Carolina, nonprofit hospitals billed low-income patients who would otherwise be eligible for charity care at a higher rate than the national average, reports Wilmington Biz. A report by the North Carolina State Treasurer’s office shows that only 18 of the state’s 105 nonprofit hospitals reported actual dollar figures for bad debt—debt that the hospital cannot recover—incurred by patients eligible for charity care. Of those 18 hospitals, the average share of eligible charity care to bad debt is 29 percent, nearly three times the national average. In addition, hospitals attributed an estimated 12 percent to nearly 29 percent of their bad debt to patients otherwise eligible to receive charity care. Furthermore, the study’s authors cast serious doubts on the accuracy of hospitals’ reporting practices that show all patients eligible for charity care received it, as those hospitals are in counties with relatively high poverty rates.
Just four out of 21 randomly sampled hospitals complied with hospital price transparency requirements in 2021, reports Center Square. This revelation comes from a report by Patient Rights Advocate, which randomly sampled 1,000 hospitals across the U.S. As of January 2021, hospitals are required to fully disclose online prices for services, unveiling negotiated rates between hospitals and insurers. A Wall Street Journal report showed that hundreds of hospitals, including Winston-Salem's Novant Health, were using embedded codes to block access to their pricing lists. The North Carolina Attorney General also released a report in January 2022 that reviewed 147 hospitals in the state, and found that 16 were not compliant with the requirement to provide a machine-readable list of services and prices, one was not compliant with the requirement to provide a consumer-friendly shoppable list and eight were not compliant with either requirement.
Lifespan and Care New England Health System scrapped merger plans amid federal and state opposition, according to Modern Healthcare. Lifespan and Care New England decided not to appeal after the Federal Trade Commission and Rhode Island Attorney General sued to block the deal last week, claiming it would increase prices, reduce quality and stifle wages. The healthcare systems are the two largest providers in Rhode Island and together they would have controlled most of the general inpatient care, outpatient surgery and inpatient behavioral healthcare in the state.
Visit the Hub website to get alerts for your state and for more social determinants of health—housing, rising unit prices, telehealth, rural health, regulating pharmacy benefit managers, price transparency, healthcare consolidation and more!