Virginia decisionmakers announced more than $8.4 million in community development block grants for 14 projects to help rural communities in Virginia, according to CBS 19 News. The funding can be used to help with COVID-19 response and recovery activities including, but not limited to: acquisition costs for telework or telemedicine services; business assistance for job training or re-tooling business services to reopen and adapt in a new environment; and construction or rehab of structures for shelters. For example, Wise County is using the funding to partner with Lunchbox276 to expand food programing options for approximately 500 children and families.
The presidential administration announced a rule allowing the importation of some prescription drugs from Canada, clearing the way for Florida and other states to implement programs to bring medications across the border, according to Kaiser Health News. Florida’s law—approved in 2019—would set up two importation programs. The first would focus on getting drugs for state programs such as Medicaid, the Department of Corrections and county health departments. The second program would be geared to the broader state population. Prices are cheaper in Canada due to limitations on how much pharmaceutical companies can charge for medicines. State officials said they expect the program to save the state about $150 million annually. The rule, however, does not allow states to import all types of medications, including biologic drugs such as insulin.
In 2020, Washington State finished a phased, regional process to transition from three fragmented Medicaid systems for physical health, mental health and substance use disorder services into one integrated system to improve care coordination and health outcomes for individuals with physical and behavioral health needs. A webinar hosted by the Center for Health Care Strategies explored Washington’s transition to physical-behavioral health integration, with a focus on how this approach was tailored to the strengths of different regions. Speakers shared lessons for stakeholders interested in integrating care, presented emerging data on resulting outcomes and addressed the evolving role of public regional behavioral health systems.
Envida, a local nonprofit, offers a ride service to those experiencing a mental health crisis in El Paso and Teller Counties, as transportation can often be a barrier to care for some individuals, reports KOAA News 5. The service was rolled out as a test program last year, and Envida has seen their ridership quadruple since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The drivers are trained in behavioral and mental health issues, and the program also provides home healthcare services to people with disabilities, older adults and those experiencing financial challenges.
Native American communities across the country are experiencing five times the hospitalization rates and 40 percent more deaths than whites due to COVID-19, concerning state officials in Colorado, reports 9 News. The executive director of Denver Indian Health and Family Services, Adrianne Maddux, notes that factors such as food insecurity, lack of access to fresh water, healthcare and PPE make the communities even more vulnerable to the disease. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is partnering with Denver Indian Health and Family Services to create a COVID-19 Native Responses team, that will be made up of community members trained in crisis counseling and will work to provide resources and mental health services to support the communities. The state will also provide free testing for Native Americans across Colorado and is working to develop culturally responsive public service announcements related to prevention.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Atlantic Health System have seen early success in their payer-provider shared accountability program in which they tie payments for services directly to outcomes in achieving quality and cost goals, reports New Jersey Business Magazine. The program represents a step away from traditional “fee for service” models and have has resulted in more than a 9 percent reduction in unnecessary hospitalizations and a 5 percent reduction in the total cost of care for patients and members in its first program year. The program used prior cost trends to jointly set a total cost of care target for certain members, and the reimbursement is adjusted annually based on performance as compared to cost targets, quality of care and patient outcomes.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a warning after Vermont failed to meet performance targets for the state’s all-payer model, reports the VTDigger. The experiment—which combines money from Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance to fund healthcare services on a per-patient basis, rather than a fee for services rendered—aims to incentivize preventive care and to lower the growth of healthcare spending, neither of which has been realized in the three years since the program began. OneCare Vermont, a for-profit hospital and provider group that manages the all-payer system, has also failed to meet enrollment targets. If the state is unable to provide a satisfactory response within 90 days, the federal government will draw up a corrective action plan. Vermont’s Agency of Human Services has asked state healthcare leaders to develop a “complete plan for rebooting the all-payer model” within 45 days.
Black people in Georgia are dying from COVID-19 by as much as 3-4 times the rate for white people across all age groups, according to a new analysis in the Augusta Chronicle. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black people likely stems from systemic inequities in employment, education and access to healthcare, as well as the higher prevalence of chronic diseases among minorities.
RAND Corporation’s recent study shows that hospitals in Georgia charged private companies nearly three times the amount they were paid by the Medicare program for the exact same services, reports Georgia Health News. The gap between reimbursement from Medicare and private insurers has widened between 2016 and 2018. Lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid has likely caused hospitals to “cost shift” and charge privately insured patients a higher rate for the same services.
The Washington Health Alliance released its second Community Checkup report in 2020 on the quality of healthcare in Washington state. In addition to other features, the report includes a new Quality Composite Score that combines up to 29 Community Checkup measures to make it easier to compare the quality of healthcare being delivered across the state and by different provider groups. While the composite score provides a more streamlined and nuanced understanding of care quality on primary care measures endorsed by Alliance members, it does not provide an understanding of other important factors, such as cost, patient experience, and care disparities. As the work of the Alliance continues, the Quality Composite Score may evolve to incorporate and measure these important aspects of healthcare.