Texas ranked low on healthcare affordability in a 2020 scorecard from Altarum, in part because it is “among the most expensive states, with private payer prices well above the national median.” Almost half of Texans had problems with out-of-pocket expenses and one third had trouble paying medical bills. Another report also found that Texas ranked last on access and affordability, according to Dallas News. The state legislature, and specifically its committee appointed to study healthcare costs, has an opportunity to identify state-based strategies that would address residents’ affordability and access needs.
Kansas families struggling to pay exorbitant healthcare costs are falling prey to predatory collection practices by law firms representing local providers, according to CBS News. In rural Coffeyville, residents with unpaid medical bills must appear in court every three months for a "debtors exam." Failure to appear may result in jail time and bail money is commonly used to pay debt collectors and healthcare providers, rather than being returned to defendants when they appear in court.
North Carolina’s Medicaid system has found a way to save as much as $6,000 annually per patient with the help of a unique care management program, reports Health Data Management. The management program – provided by the Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC), a public-private partnership of healthcare providers and payers – focuses on providing medical homes, community support and data analysis to meet the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries in the state. CCNC’s report notes that the organization uses administrative data to create an “impactability score” for Medicaid members that focuses on Medicaid utilization patterns that go beyond medical care to include social determinants of health and other variables.
Doctors and others who provide mental health and addiction services in Maryland under the Medicaid program have had millions of dollars in bills go unpaid this year because a new state payment system is malfunctioning, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Maryland Health Department, which oversees the payments, notified providers last week that it planned to begin sending estimated payments that total about $32 million a week as it works to fix the system serving more than a quarter-million people. This snafu affects about 2,500 doctors, hospitals, clinics and other facilities that offer behavioral health services in the state.
NYC Care, New York City’s answer to calls for universal healthcare, is now available in Brooklyn and Staten Island, according to amNY. The city expects to enroll 15,000 new NYC Care members in both boroughs over the next six months – since the launch in the Bronx in August 2017, 13,000 residents have enrolled in the program that offers free or low-cost health services. New members will be offered a primary care provider within two weeks of enrollment, have access to patient care overseen by NYC Health + Hospitals, have access to 24/7 customer assistance and a hotline for an on-call clinician to speak about patient needs, like prescription refills.
Western Maryland Health System is now officially UPMC Western Maryland, merging into the UPMC hospital network, according to the Cumberland Times-News. UPMC has committed to make certain capital investments to enhance services and upgrade facilities in the Western Maryland region, to ensure they will continue to provide quality healthcare for residents and remain one of the largest employers in the region. The new affiliation does not affect patients’ insurance coverage, and UPMC Western Maryland has reaffirmed its commitment to work with multiple payers in the future.
UAB Health System and Ascension St. Vincent’s have gained approval of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees to move forward with a strategic alliance, according to AL.com. While not a merger, the move allows UABHS facilities to retain the UABHS or UAB Medicine brands, and Ascension St. Vincent’s facilities to remain Ascension St. Vincent’s. Those spearheading the alliance argue that it will allow for better care coordination of programs and increase patient access to diabetes and mental healthcare services. The alliance will not change physicians or insurance coverage for patients, organizers say, and medical records are still accessible through existing patient portals.
A new Illinois law will cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 for a 30-day supply, according to WGN9. The new legislation (SB 667) is expected to impact about 1.3 million people in the state who have diabetes and is considered an important step in lowering out-of-pocket costs for Illinois families.
According to NJ Spotlight, New Jersey passed two new laws (A-5916 and A-5918) that respectively authorize the state Department of Health to notify elected officials of fiscal difficulties encountered by hospitals and make hospital reporting requirements more stringent. The goal is to ensure acute-care facilities do not suddenly halt services and leave residents without healthcare in their communities. Concern driving these bills was raised by a March 2019 State Committee of Investigation (SCI) report that spotlighted $157 million in apparently duplicative management and consulting fees paid to third-party companies by CarePoint Health, which owned three Hudson County hospitals.
High prices at hospitals are driving up the cost of healthcare more dramatically in Colorado than elsewhere in the U.S., according to CPR News. Hospital profits increased by more than 280 percent between 2009 and 2018, a state report found, and profit per patient rose to more than $1,500 a patient. The report by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing also found that uncompensated care in Colorado is at a historic low, and hospital spending on charity care and bad debt has dropped more than $385 million a year since Medicaid expansion in the state.